Here are several quotes from Albert Schweitzer, one of the greatest thinkers of our times. These selections were included in my first digital book "I Am Sharing: Thoughts, Experiences and Learning About Love and Service"
The city of truth cannot be built on the swampy ground of skepticism. Our spiritual life is rotten throughout because it is permeated through and through with skepticism, and we live in consequence in a world which in every respect is full of falsehood. We are not far from shipwreck on the rock of wanting to have even truth organized.
Truth taken over by skepticism which has become believing has not the spiritual qualities of that which originated in thinking. It has been externalized and rendered torpid. It does obtain influence over a man, but it is not capable of uniting itself with him to the very marrow of his being. Living truth is that alone which has its origin in thinking.
Just as a tree bears year after year the same fruit and yet fruit which is each year new, so must all permanently valuable ideas be continually born again in thought. But our age is bent on trying to make the barren tree of skepticism fruitful by tying fruits of truth on its branches.
(Life, p. 259) from Albert Schweitzer and Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Loss of Self Confidence
The circumstances of the age do their best to deliver us up to the spirit of the age. The seed of skepticism has germinated. In fact, the modern man has no longer any spiritual self-confidence at all. Behind a self-confident exterior he conceals a great inward lack of confidence. In spite of his great capacity in material matters he is an altogether stunted being, because he makes no use of his capacity for thinking. It will ever remain incomprehensible that our generation, which has shown itself so great by its achievements in discovery and invention, could fall so low spiritually as to give up thinking.
(Life, p. 257) from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Man of Today
The man of today is exposed to influences which are bent on robbing him of all confidence in his own thinking. The spirit of spiritual dependence to which he is called on to surrender is in everything that he hears, or reads; it is in the people whom he meets every day; it is in the parties and associations which have claimed him as their own; it pervades all the circumstances of his life.
From every side and in the most varied ways it is dinned into him that the truths and convictions which he needs for life must be taken by him from the associations which have rights over him. The spirit of the age never lets him come to himself. Over and over again convictions are forced upon him in the same way as, by means of the electric advertisements which flare in the streets of every large town any company which has sufficient capital to get itself securely established, exercises pressure on him at every step he takes to induce him to buy their boot polish or their soup tablets.
By the spirit of the age, then, 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. To all this constant influence he cannot make the resistance that is desirable because he is an overworked and distracted being without power to concentrate. Moreover, the manifold material trammels which are his lot work upon his mentality in such a way that he comes at last to believe himself unqualified to make any claim to thoughts of his own.
(Life, pp. 255 f.) from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Modern Thought has No Goal
With the spirit of the age I am in complete disagreement, because it is filled with disdain for thinking. That such is its attitude is to some extent explicable by the fact that thought has never yet reached the goal which it must set before itself. Time after time it was convinced that it had clearly established a world-view which was in accordance with knowledge and ethically satisfactory. But time after time the truth came out that it had not succeeded. Doubts, therefore, could well arise as to whether thinking would ever be capable of answering
current questions about the world and or relation to it in such a way that we could give a meaning and a content to our lives.
[Life, p. 254] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Thinking Drops the Tiller
In modern thinking the same thing happens as in religion. Thinking drops the tiller from its hand in the middle of the storm. It renounces the idea of giving human beings ideals by the help of which they can get on with reality. It leaves them to themselves, and that in a most terrible moment. For the present moment is terrible. Man has won power over the forces of nature and by that has become superman - and at the same time most miserable man! For this power over the forces of nature is not being used beneficially, but destructively. [Religion, p. 1520] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Modern Thinking Unequal to its Task
The spirit of the age rejoices, instead of lamenting, that thinking seems to be unequal to its task, and gives it no credit for what, in spite of imperfections, it has already accomplished. It refuses to admit, what is nevertheless the fact, that all spiritual progress up to today has come about through the achievements of thought, or to reflect that thinking may still be able in the future to accomplish what it has not succeeded in accomplishing as yet.
[Life, p. 255] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Life Without Thought
No one who opens the sluices to let a flood of skepticism pour itself over the land must expect to be able to bring it back within its proper bounds. Of those who let themselves get too disheartened to try any longer to discover truth by their own thinking, only few find a substitute for it in truth taken from others. The mass of people remain skeptical. They lose all feeling for truth, and all sense of need for it as well, finding themselves quite comfortable in a life without thought, driven now here, now there, from one opinion to another
[Life, p. 258] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Religion of Our Age
If one reviews the development of religion since the middle of the nineteenth century, one understands the tragic fact that although really living religion is to be found among us, it is not the leaven that leavens the thinking of our age.
[Religion, p. 1484] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Lack of Reason in Our Time
The history of our time is characterized by lack of reason which has no parallel in the past. Future historians will one day analyze this history in detail, and test by means of it their learning and their freedom from prejudice. But for all future times there will be, as there is for today, only one explanation, viz., that we sought to live and to carry on with a civilization which had no ethical principle behind it.
[Decay, p. 61] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Clogged Spirit
A fundamental impulse to reflect about the universe stirs us during those years in which we begin to think independently. Later on we let it languish, even though feeling clearly that we thereby impoverish ourselves and become less capable of what is good. We are like springs of water which no longer run because they have not been watched and have gradually become choked with rubbish. more than any other age has our own neglected to watch the thousand springs of thought; hence the drought in which we are pining. But if we only go on to remove the rubbish which conceals the water, the sands will be irrigated again, and life will spring up where hitherto there has been only a desert.
[Decay, pp. 92 f.] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Divorce of Science and Reflection
Today thought gets no help from science, and the latter stands facing it independent and unconcerned. The newest scientific knowledge may be allied with an entirely un-reflecting view of the universe. It maintains that it is concerned only with the establishment of individual facts, since it is only by means of these that scientific knowledge can maintain its practical character; the coordination of the different branches of knowledge and the utilization of the results to form a theory of the universe are, it says, not its business. Once every man of science was also a thinker who counted for something in the general spiritual life of his generation. Our age has discovered how to divorce knowledge from thought, with the result that we have, indeed, a science which is free, but hardly any science left which reflects.
[Decay, p. 72] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Secondary Issues Prevail
Our philosophizing has become more and more involved in the discussion of secondary issues. It has lost touch with the elemental questions regarding life and the world which it is man's task to pose and to solve, and has found satisfaction more and more in discussing problems of a purely academic nature and in a mere virtuosity of philosophical technique. It has become increasingly absorbed in side issues. Instead of genuine classical music it has frequently produced only chamber music, often excellent in its way, but not the real thing. And so this philosophy, which was occupied only in elucidating itself, instead of struggling to achieve a
world-view grounded in thought and essential for life, has led us into a position where we are devoid of any world-view at all, as an inevitable consequence of this, of any real civilization.
[Ethics, p. viii] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Danger of Technical Language
Technical expressions are a danger for every system of philosophy, whether Indian or European. For they may become formulae which hinder the natural development of thought in the same way as ruts in a road hinder traffic. So to find out what are its real contents it is reasonable to test a system of thought by setting aside expressions which it has coined for its own use and compelling it to speak in ordinary comprehensible language.
[Indian, p. ix] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Tragedy of Western Thought
Western thought is not governed by mystical thought by the idea that the one thing needful is the spiritual union of man with infinite Being, and therefore (if it is obliged to renounce the hope of attaining to a knowledge of the universe that corresponds to ethical world- and life affirmation), it is in danger of saying it is satisfied not only with lowered ideals, but also with an inferior conception of world-view. That is the tragedy that is being enacted before our eyes.
[Indian, pp. 253 f.] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
Renunciation of thinking is a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy. Where there is no longer a conviction that man can get to know the truth by their own thinking, skepticism begins. Those who work to make our age skeptical in this way, do so in the expectation that, as a result of renouncing all hope of self-discovered truth, men will end by accepting as truth what is forced upon them with authority and by propaganda.
[Life, p. 258] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.
The Ideals that We Need
Humanity has always needed ethical ideals to enable it to find the right path, that man may make the right use of the power he possesses. Today his power is increased a thousandfold. A thousandfold greater is now the need for man to possess ethical ideas to point the way. Yet at the very moment when this happens, thinking fails. In this period of deepest need thinking is not giving to humanity the ideals it needs so that it may not be overwhelmed. Is that our destiny? I hope not. I believe not. I think that in our age we are all carrying within us a new form of thought which will give us ethical ideals.
[Religion, p. 1520] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.