Date of Award

5-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Kristina Passman

Second Committee Member

Carol Toner

Third Committee Member

Michael Howard

Abstract

This work seeks to define what it means to be a human being by exploring questions such as: What ideals and values are conducive to peaceful living and a more non-violent world? How has materialism and scientific development changed the perception of ethical ideals? How does ethical belief influence conduct? What role does spirituality have in human existence? These questions are answered within the framework of Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy ‘Reverence for Life’ as well as the research of transpersonal psychology, psychoanalysis, and theology. The works of Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, Viktor Frankl, and Martin Buber provide a contextual understanding of Reverence for Life that combines perspectives from various religions, world-views, and intellectual disciplines.

This project examines the intellectual and philosophical forces of the 20th century, a period of tremendous scientific advancement and increased power in machine technology. Many psychologists and theologians contribute to the critical analysis of defining ‘progress’ during this century of incredible material development. Despite the capabilities of science, Schweitzer was an advocate for the supremacy of the spirit, a position that other 20th century thinkers supported. Is the opposition of science and spirituality inevitable? Transpersonal psychology provides compelling evidence to believe that modem reason and spiritual practice have more in common than the strict scientific model of investigation admits.

This study relates the material and spiritual through transpersonal psychology. The scope of the transpersonal is vast, and includes religious practices such as the Sufis of Islam, the monks of Christian spirituality, and the ‘New Age’ movement. It also invites the contribution of science, with the effort to understand spiritual mind states, emotions, and conduct through the scientific method. Transpersonal psychology explores human development and evolution beyond the material self, a pursuit that does not necessarily exclude organized religion.

“A Transpersonal Exploration into the Living Philosophy of Albert Schweitzer” utilizes primary sources, with the exception of chapter three’s discussion of postmodernism. Since chapter two discusses Reverence for Life and chapter three is based on Schweitzer himself, the postmodern interpretation of the relationship between the author and reader was an important component of this project. Instead of investigating the complexities of postmodern theory myself, I turned to expert analysis to provide the most accurate portrayal of postmodern philosophy. Secondary sources are particularly valuable to interdisciplinary work when there are various limits, including time and personal understanding of the researcher.

The interdisciplinary approach of this project reflects the legacy of Albert Schweitzer. He was a living representation of interdisciplinarity through his activities as a theologian, philosopher, and musician. Due to time constraints, this project focuses on his theological and philosophical work. However, I encourage readers to explore Schweitzer’s passion for music, which is invaluable to the understanding of his entire personality. His autobiography Out of My Life and Thought contains discussions of Bach, his love for organs, and the art of organ building.

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