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Spirituality Benefits Civilizations: Selections from “The Philosophy of Civilization and Ethics” by the Reverend Dr. Albert Schweitzer (vegetarian), Part 2 of 2

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Let us continue with excerpts from the book “The Philosophy of Civilization and Ethics,” where Reverend Dr. Albert Schweitzer expounds on the dangers of material development without spiritual development.

Chapter 1 The Crisis in Civilization and it’s Spiritual Cause

“To a certain extent we have all of us, under modern conditions, become unfree men. In every rank of life we have from decade to decade, if not from year to year, to carry on a harder struggle for existence. Overwork, physical or mental or both, is our lot. We can no longer find time to collect and order our thoughts. Our spiritual dependence increases at the same rate as our material dependence. In every direction we are the victims of conditions of dependence which in former times were never known in such universality and such strength.”

“Thus it is that the progress of our external civilization brings with it the result that individuals, in spite of all the advantages they get, are thereby in many respects injured both materially and spiritually in their capacity for civilization. It is our progress in material civilization, too, which intensifies in so disastrous a way our social and political problems. Modern social problems involve us in a class struggle which shakes and shatters economic and national relations. If we go down to rock-bottom, it was machinery and world commerce which brought about the world war, and the inventions which put into our hands such mighty power of destruction made the war of such a devastating character that conquered and conquerors alike are ruined for a period of which no one can see the end. It was also our technical achievements which put us in a position to kill at such a distance, and to annihilate men in such masses, that we sank so low as to push aside any last impulse to humanity, and were mere blind wills which made use of perfected lethal weapons of such destructive capacity that we were unable to maintain the distinction between combatants and non-combatants.

Material achievements, then, are not civilization, but become civilization only so far as the mental habit of civilized peoples is capable of allowing them to aim at the perfecting of the individual and the community. Fooled, however, by our advances in knowledge and power, we did not reflect on the danger to which we were exposing ourselves by the diminished value we put on the spiritual elements in civilization.”
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