The phrase “Reverence for Life” (translation of the German phrase: “Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben”) came to Albert Schweitzer while searching for a universal concept of ethics for our time.
He develops the concept from observation of the world around us.
“Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.”— Albert Schweitzer | Civilization and Ethics
“Reverence for Life says that the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass—and, of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves.”— James Brabazon
He held the view in the 1920s that people had largely lost touch with their own will (German word ‘Wille’), having subjugated it to outside authority and sacrificed it to external circumstances.
He therefore pointed back to that elemental part of ourselves that can be in touch with our ‘will’ and can exercise it for the good of all.
In “Out of My Life and Thought” Schweitzer wrote:
“The most immediate fact of man’s consciousness is the assertion ‘I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live’,”—Albert Schweitzer