Missionary and Statesman, Nobel Peace Prize 1952
Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace. - The Philosophy of Civilisation
The quiet conscience is an invention of the devil. - The Philosophy of Civilisation
Late upon the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset... there flashed upon my mind, unforseen and unsought, the phrase 'Reverence for Life'.
A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.
Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy. - Letter to a Japanese Animal Welfare Society, 1961
It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.
When I help an insect out of his troubles all that I do is attempt to remove some of the guilt contracted through [humanity's] crimes against animals.
That's my private ant. You're liable to break its legs. (to a ten year old boy.)
Happiness? That's nothing more than good health and a poor memory.
Let no one regard as light the burden of his responsibility. While so much ill-treatment of animals goes on, while the moans of thirsty animals in railway trucks sound unheard, while so much brutality prevails in our slaughterhouses... we all bear guilt. Everything that lives has value as a living thing, as one of the manifestations of the mystery that is life.
In modern European thought a tragedy is occurring in that the original bonds uniting the affirmative attitude toward the world with ethics are, by a slow but irresistible process, loosening and finally parting. - Out of My Life and Thought
The human spirit is not dead. It lives on in secret . . . It has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind. - Nobel Peace Prize address: The Problem of Peace in the World Today
Our civilization lacks humane feeling. We are humans who are insufficiently humane! We must realize that and seek to find a new spirit. We have lost sight of this ideal because we are solely occupied with thoughts of men instead of remembering that our goodness and compassion should extend to all creatures. Religion and philosophy have not insisted as much as they should on the fact that our kindness should include all living creatures. - Letter to Aida Flemming, 1959
It is our duty to share and maintain life. Reverence concerning all life is the greatest commandment in its most elementary form. Or expressed in negative terms: "Thou shalt not kill". We take this prohibition so lightly, thoughtlessly plucking a flower, thoughtlessly stepping on a poor insect, thoughtlessly, in terrible blindness because everything takes its revenge, disregarding the suffering and lives of our fellow men, sacrificing them to trivial earthly goals. - Reverence for Life
To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will-to-live.
At the same time, the man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give to every will-to-live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. He expenences that other life as his own. 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 injure life, to repress life which is capable of development. This is the absolute, fundamental principle of the moral, and it is a necessity of thought. - Quoted in A Treasury of Albert Schweitzer, ed. Kiernan
various extracts from 'Memoirs of Childhood and Youth':
As long as I can remember, I have suffered because of the great misery I saw in the world. I never really knew the artless, youthful joy of living, and I believe that many children feel this way, even when outwardly they seem to be wholly happy and without a single care.
I used to suffer particularly because the poor animals must endure so much pain and want. The sight of an old, limping horse being dragged along by one man while another man struck him with a stick he was being driven to the Colmar slaughterhouse - haunted me for weeks.
This was a horrible proposal [that the eight year-old Albert join a friend in killing birds with a sling] . . . but 1 dared not refuse for fear he would laugh at me. So we came to a tree which was still bare, and on which the birds were singing out gaily in the morning, without any fear of us. Then stooping over like an Indian on the hunt, my companion placed a pebble in the leather of his sling and stretched it. Obeying his peremptory glance I did the same, with frightful twinges of conscience, vowing firmly that I would shoot when he did. At that very moment the church bells began to sound, mingling with the song of the birds in the sunshine. It was the warning bell that came a half-hour before the main bell. For me it was a voice from heaven. I threw the sling down, scaring the birds away, so that they were safe from my companion's sling, and fled home. And ever afterwards when the bells of Holy Week ring out amidst the leafless trees in the sunshine I remember with moving gratitude how they rang into my heart at that time the commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come.
various extracts from 'Civilization and Ethics'
What is the nature of this degeneration in our civilization and why has it come about? . . The disastrous feature of our civilization is that it is far more developed materially than spiritually. Its balance is disturbed . . . Now come the facts to summon us to reflect. They tell us in terribly harsh language that a civilization which develops only on its material side, and not in the sphere of the spirit . . . heads for disaster.
The ethic of Reverence for Life prompts us to keep each other alert to what troubles us and to speak and act dauntlessly together in discharging the responsibility that we feel. It keeps us watching together for opportunities to bring some sort of help to animals in recompense for the great misery that men inflict upon them, and thus for a moment we escape from the incomprehensible horror of existence.
I must interpret the life about me as I interpret the life that is my own. My life is full of meaning to mc. 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. And not only other human life, but all kinds of life: life above mine, if there be such life; life below mine, as I know it to exist. Ethics in our Western world has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is a limited ethics. We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.
A man is really ethical only when he obeys the constraint laid on him to aid all life which he is able to help, and when he goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything living. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy as valuable in itself, nor how far it is capable of feeling. To him life as such is sacred If he goes out into the street after a rainstorm and sees a worm which has strayed there, he reflects that it will certainly dry up in the sunshine if it does not quickly regain the damp soil into which it can creep, and so he helps it back from the deadly paving stone into the lush grass. Should he pass by an insect which has fallen into a pool, he spares the time to reach a leaf or stalk on which it may clamber and save itself.
The man who has become a thinking being feels a compulsion to give every will-to-live the same reverence for life that he gives to his own. He experiences that other life in his own.
The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.
It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed. It was once considered foolish to suppose that black men were really human beings and ought to be treated as such. What was once foolish has now become a recognized truth. Today it is considered as exaggeration to proclaim constant respect for every form of life as being the serious demand of a rational ethic. But the time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility to everything that has life.