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.
What the Soul Is
Topic: Immanence & Transcendence
No one can give a definition of the soul. But we know what it feels like. 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. The soul is a burning desire to breathe in this world of light and never to lose it—to remain children of light.
Albert Schweitzer (January 14, 1875 - September 4, 1965) was a multi-faceted personality—a theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician—whose accomplishments spanned diverse areas. Born into an Alsatian family with a rich tradition in religion, music, and education, his early life was shaped by the spiritual and scholarly pursuits of his ancestors. This milieu nurtured his deep interest in theology and music. A Lutheran by faith, Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of Jesus as well as the traditional Christian view, contributing significantly to the interpretation of Pauline Christianity. His life was also characterized by a strong dedication to humanitarian work, as exemplified by his role as a medical missionary in Africa.
Schweitzer embarked on his intellectual journey at the University of Strasbourg in 1893, where he undertook intensive theological studies. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1899 with a dissertation on Kant's religious philosophy and his licentiate in theology in 1900. During this period, he began preaching at St. Nicholas Church and held several high-ranking administrative positions at the Theological College of St. Thomas from 1901 to 1912. His acclaimed book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, published in 1906, established his reputation as a notable theological scholar.
Parallel to his theological endeavors, Schweitzer pursued a distinguished career in music, stemming from his early piano and organ lessons. He was recognized as an internationally renowned concert organist from his young adulthood until his mid-eighties. His concerts not only showcased his musical talent but also provided funds for his education and his later medical mission in Africa. As a musicologist, Schweitzer penned a biography of Bach in 1905 and published a book on organ building and playing in 1906, further cementing his reputation in the realm of music.
In 1905, Schweitzer began studying medicine at the University of Strasbourg with a vision to serve as a medical missionary in Africa. Upon obtaining his M.D. degree in 1913, he founded a hospital in Lambaréné, French Equatorial Africa. After a stint as a prisoner of war and a period of six years in Europe, he returned to Lambaréné in 1924, where he spent most of his remaining life. He transformed the hospital into a large complex capable of housing over 500 patients. His life in Lambaréné reflected his multi-disciplinary talents—he was a doctor, surgeon, pastor, administrator, writer, musician, and a gracious host. His exceptional service earned him numerous honors, including the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. The latter award's prize money helped him establish a leprosarium in Lambaréné. Albert Schweitzer passed away on September 4, 1965, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and dedication to the service of humanity.
Reverence for Life
Schweitzer, Albert. Reverence for Life. Harper & Row, 1969. [Albert Schweitzer (Reverence for Life: The Words of Albert Schweitzer)].
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