Albert Schweitzer - An Autobiography

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  • O U T O F M Y L I F E

    A N D T H O U G H T

    An Autobiography

  • A L B E R T S C H W E I T Z E R

    O U T O F M Y L I F E

    A N D T H O U G H T

    An Autobiography

    T R A N S L A T E D B Y C . T . C A M P I O N

    P O S T S C R I P T B Y E V E R E T T S K I L L I N G S

    N E W Y O R K : H E N R Y H O L T A N D C O M P A N Y

  • Original title, Aus Meinem Leben und Denken."

    Copyright, 1933, 1949, by Henry Holt and Company, Inc.

    Designed by Maurice Serle Kaplan

    Printed in the United States of America

  • Contents

    I . Childhood, School, and University i

    I I . Paris and Berlin, 1898-1899 1 5

    III. The First Years of Activity in Strasbourg 24

    IV. Study of the Last Supper and the Life ofJesus, 1900-1902 32

    V. Teaching Activities at the University. TheQuest of the Historical Jesus 42

    VI. The Historical Jesus and the Christianityof Today 5 1

    VII. The Bach BookFrench and German Editions 60

    VIII. On Organs and Organ Building 70

  • Contents

    IX. I Resolve to Become a Jungle Doctor 84

    X. My Medical Studies, 1905-1912 98

    XI. Preparations for Africa 111

    XII. Literary Work During My Medical Course 118

    XIII. First Activities in Africa, 1913-191'] 138

    XIV. Garaison and St. Remy 163

    XV. Back in A Isace 175

    XVI. Physician and Preacher in Strasbourg 181

    XVII. The Book of African Reminiscences 187

    XVIII. Giinsbach and Journeys Abroad J95

    XIX. The Second Period in Africa, 1924-1927 204

    XX. Two Years in Europe. A Third Period in Africa 212

    XXI. Epilogue 219

    Postscript, 1932-1949, by Everett Skillings 244

  • O U T O F M Y L I F E

    A N D T H O U G H T

    An Autobiography

  • C H A P T E R I

    Childhood, School, and University

    I WAS born on January 14th, 1875, at Kaysersberg in Upper Alsace, the second child of Louis Schweitzer who was shepherding just then the little flock of evangelical believers in that Catholic place. My paternal grandfather was schoolmaster and organist at Pfaffenhofen in Lower Alsace, and three of his brothers occupied similar posts. My mother Adele, nee Schillinger, was a daughter of the Pastor of Miihlbach in the Munster Valley, Upper Alsace.

    A few weeks after my birth my father moved to Giins- bach in the Munster Valley, where with my three sisters and one brother I lived through a very happy childhood and youth, unclouded but for the frequent illnesses of my father. His health improved, however, later on, and as a sturdy septuagenarian he looked after his parish during the war under the fire of the French guns which swept the valley from the heights of the Vosges mountains, making victims of many a house and many an inhabitant of Giins- bach. He died in ripe old age in 1925. My mother was knocked down and killed in 1 9 1 6 by cavalry horses on the road between Gunsbach and Weierim-Tal.

    1

  • When I was five years old my father began giving me music lessons on the old square piano which we had inherited from grandfather Schillinger. He had no great technical skill, but improvised charmingly. When I was seven I surprised our schoolmistress by playing hymn tunes on the harmonium with harmonies which I supplied myself. At eight, when my legs were hardly long enough to reach the pedals, I began to play the organ. My passion for that instrument was inherited from my grandfather Schillinger, who had been much interested in organs and organ building, and, as my mother told me, had the reputation of improvising magnificently. In any town that he visited, the first thing he did was to get to know its organs, and when the famous organ was placed in the Stiftskirche at Lucerne he made a journey there in order to see its builder at work.

    I was nine years old when for the first time I took the place of the organist for a service at Giinsbach.

    Till the autumn of 1884 I went to the Giinsbach village school. After that I was for a year at the Realschule (which is a secondary school giving no instruction in the dead languages) at Munster, and there I had private lessons in Latin to prepare me for entering the Fifth Form in the Gymnasium. In the autumn of 1885 I entered the Gymnasium at Miilhausen in Alsace. My godfather, Louis Schweitzer, my grandfathers half brother, who was director of the primary schools in that town, was kind enough to take me to live with him. Otherwise my father, who had nothing beyond his slender stipend on which to bring up his large family, could hardly have afforded to send me to a Gymnasium.

    The strict discipline under which I came in the house of my great-uncle and his wife, who had no children of their own, was very good for me. It is with deep gratitude that I constantly think of all the kindness I received from them.

    Out of My Life and Thought

    2

  • Although it had cost me some trouble to learn to read and write, I had got on fairly well in school at Giinsbach and Munster. At the Gymnasium, however, I was at first a poor scholar. This was not due solely to my being slack and dreamy, but partly also to the fact that my private lessons in Latin had not prepared me sufficiently for the Fifth Form, in which I entered the school. It was only when my form master in the Fourth, Dr. Wehmann, showed me how to work properly and gave me some self-confidence, that things went better. But Dr. Wehmanns influence over me was due above all to the fact, of which I became aware during my first days in his form, that he most carefully prepared beforehand every lesson that he gave. He became to me a model of fulfillment of duty. I visited him many times in later life. When, toward the end of the war, I went to Strasbourg, where he lived for the latter part of his life, I at once inquired for him. I learned, however, that privation had ruined his nervous system and that he had taken his own life.

    For music master at Miilhausen I had Eugene Munch, the young organist at the Reformed Church of St. Stephen. This was his first post on leaving the High School of Music at Berlin where he had been seized by the then awakening enthusiasm for Bach. I owe it to him that I became acquainted in my early years with the works of the cantor of St. Thomas and from my fifteenth year onwards enjoyed the privilege of sound instruction on the organ. When in the autumn of 1898 he died of typhoid fever in the flower of his age, I perpetuated his memory in a small booklet written in French. It was published in Miilhausen, and was the first product of my pen to appear in print.1

    At the Gymnasium I was chiefly interested in history and natural science. Our history teacher was Dr. Kaufmann, brother of the Breslau historian. Natural science we were taught splendidly by Dr. Fdrster.

    1 Eugene Munch (Miilhausen, Alsace, Brinkraann, 1898), 28 pages.

    Childhood, School, and University

    3

  • In languages and mathematics it cost me an effort to accomplish anything. But after a time I felt a certain fascination in mastering subjects for which I had no special talent. So in the upper forms I was reckoned one of the better scholars, though not one of the best. With essays, however, if I remember right, I was usually the top boy.

    In the First Form we were taught Latin and Greek by the distinguished director of the Gymnasium, Wilhelm Deecke of Liibeck. His lessons were not the dry instruction of a mere linguist, but they introduced us to ancient philosophy, and he was thereby enabled to give us glimpses of the thought of modern times. He was an enthusiastic follower of Schopenhauer.

    On June 18th, 1893, I passed the final examination. In the written papers I did not cut a brilliant figure, not even in the essay. In the viva voce, however, I attracted the notice of the president of the board of examiners, Dr. Albrecht of Strasbourg, by my knowledge of history and my historical judgment. My otherwise rather mediocre final certificate was, at his instance, adorned with an Excellent in history, substantiated by the reasons for this high praise.

    In October of this year, the generosity of my fathers elder brother, who was in business in Paris, secured for me the privilege of instruction on the organ from the Parisian organist, Charles Marie Widor. My teacher at Mulhausen had brought me on so well, that after hearing me play Widor took me as a pupil, although he normally confined his instruction to the members of the Organ Class at the Conservatoire. This instruction was for me an event of decisive importance. Widor led me on to a fundamental improvement of my technique, and made me strive to attain perfect plasticity in playing. At the same time there dawned on me, thanks to him, the meaning of the architectonic in music.

    My first lesson from Widor happened to be on the sunny

    Out of My Life and Thought

    4

  • October day on which the Russian sailors under Admiral Avellan entered Paris for the visit, which was the first manifestation of the Franco-Russian friendship that was then beginning. I was delayed by the closely packed, ex- pectant crowds which filled the boulevards and the central streets, and was very late in reaching the masters house.

    At the end of October, 1893, I became a student at Strasbourg University. I lived in the theological College of St. Thomas (the Collegium Wilhelmitanum), the Principal of which was the learned Reverend Alfred Erichson. just at that time he was occupied in completing his great edition of the works of Calvin.

    Strasbourg University was then at the height of its reputation. Unhampered by tradition, teachers and students alike strove to realize the ideal of a modern university. There were hardly any professors of advanced age on the teaching staff. A fresh