Felix Adler

Felix
Adler
1851
1933

German-born American Educator, Founder of Ethical Culture Movement, Professor of Political and Social Ethics, Rationalist, Lecturer, Social Reformer

Author Quotes

Act so as to elicit the best in others and thereby in thyself.

Good deeds remain good, no matter whether we know how the world was made or not. Vile deeds are vile, no matter whether we know or do not know what, after death, will be the fate of the doer. We know, at least, what his fate is now, namely, to be wedded to the vileness. The question for anyone to decide, who hesitates between good and evil, is whether he aspires to be a full-weight man, or merely the fragment, nay, the counterfeit of a man. Only he who ceaselessly aims at moral completeness is, in the true sense, a human being.

Love is an echo in the feelings of a unity subsisting between two persons which is founded both on likeness and on complementary differences. Without the likeness there would be no attraction; without the challenge of the complementary differences there could not be the closer interweaving and the inextinguishable mutual interest which is the characteristic of all deeper relationships.

The exercises of our meeting are to be simple and devoid of all ceremonial and formalism. They are to consist of a lecture mainly, and, as a pleasing and grateful auxiliary, of music to elevate the heart and give rest to the feelings.

The radiant future stretches forth its arms toward us, and binds us to be willing servants to its work, willingly to accept those limitations of the individual will which are indispensable in the service of a far-off cause, a service which at the same time disciplines and ennobles the individual himself.

To understand the meaning of a great religious teacher we must find in our own life experiences somewhat akin to his. To selfish, unprincipled persons whose heart is wholly set on worldly ends, what meaning, for instance, can such utterances have as these? "You must become like little children if you would possess the kingdom of heaven;" "You must be willing to lose your life in order to save it;" "If you would be first you must consent to be last." To the worldly-minded such words convey no sense whatever; they are, in fact, rank absurdity.

Admitting the force of these contentions, nevertheless, the custom of meeting together in public assembly for the consideration of the most serious, the most exalted topics of human interest is too vitally precious to be lost.

Here are two kinds of light, the light on the hither side of the darkness and the light beyond the darkness. We must press on through the darkness and the terror of it if we would reach the holier light beyond. We are here — no matter who put us here, or how we came here — to fulfill a task. We cannot afford to go of our own volition until the last item of our duty is discharged.

Man is like a tree, with the mighty trunk of intellect, the spreading branches of imagination, and the roots of the lower instincts that bind him to the earth. The moral life, however, is the fruit he bears; in it his true nature is revealed.

The fact that there is a spiritual power in us, that is to say, a power which testifies to the unity of our life with the life of others, which impels us to regard others as other selves — this fact conies home to us even more forcibly in sorrow than in joy. It is thrown into clearest relief on the background of pain. In the glow of achievement we are apt to be full of a false self-importance. But in moments of weakness we realize, through contrast, the infinitely superior strength of the power whose very humble organs and ministers we are. It is then we come to understand that, isolated from it, we are nothing; at one with it, identified with it, we participate in its eternal nature, in its resistless course.

The right for the right's sake is the motto which everyone should take for his own life. With that as a standard of value we can descend into our hearts, appraise ourselves, and determine in how far we already are moral beings, in how far not yet.

To-day, in the estimation of many, science and art are taking the place of religion. But science and art alike are inadequate to build up character and to furnish binding rules of conduct. We need also a clearer understanding of applied ethics, a better insight into the specific duties of life, a finer and a surer moral tact.

Already complaints are multiplying on every hand that that most gracious quality of all that adorns the age of childhood — the quality of reverence — is fast fading from our schools and households; that the oldtime respect for father and mother is diminished, and grown rarer and more uncertain.

I believe in the supreme excellence of righteousness; I believe that the law of righteousness will triumph in the universe over all evil; I believe that in the attempt to fulfill the law of righteousness, however imperfect it must remain, are to be found the inspiration, the consolation, and the sanctification of human existence. We live in order to finish an, as yet, unfinished universe, unfinished so far as the human, that is, the highest part of it, is concerned. We live in order to develop the superior qualities of man which are, as yet, for the most part latent.

No one can fail to see that the power of the Church among large numbers in many communities is today diminishing, or has already ceased.

The family is the school of duties... founded on love.

The Supreme Ethical Rule: Act So As To Elicit the Best In Others and Thereby In Thy Self. Always act so as to elicit the best in others, and thereby oneself. Always act so as to elicit the best in others, and thereby one's Self. Always act so as to elicit the best in others, and thereby in yourself. Act so as to encourage the best in others and by so doing you will develop the best in yourself.

We call him a hero who maintains himself, single-handed, against superior numbers. We call him a master-horseman who sits a fiery and vicious steed, guiding him at will. And in like manner, we call him a moral hero who conquers the enemies within his own breast — and we admire and revere the soul which can ride its own passions and force them into obedience to the dictates of reason.

An ideal is a port toward which we resolve to steer. We may not reach it. The mere fact that our goal is definitely located does not suffice to conduct us thither. But surely we shall thus stand a better chance of making port in the end than if we drift about aimlessly, the sport of winds and tides, without having decided in our own minds in what direction we ought to bend our course. The moral law is the expression of our inmost nature, and when we live in consonance with it we feel that we are living out our true being.

If you desire information on some point of law, you are not likely to ponder over the ponderous tomes of legal writers in order to obtain the knowledge you seek, by your own unaided efforts.

Of the origin of things we know nothing, and can know nothing. Perfection does not reveal itself to us as existent in the beginning; but as something that ought to be, something new which we are to help create. Somehow the secret of the universe is hidden in our breast. Somehow the destinies of the universe depend upon our exertions.

The freedom of thought is a sacred right of every individual man, and diversity will continue to increase with the progress, refinement, and differentiation of the human intellect. But if difference be inevitable, nay, welcome in thought, there is a sphere in which unanimity and fellowship are above all things needful. Believe or disbelieve as ye list — we shall at all times respect every honest conviction. But be one with us where there is nothing to divide — in action. Diversity in the creed, unanimity in the deed! This is that practical religion from which none dissents. This is that platform broad enough and solid enough to receive the worshipper and the "infidel." This is that common ground where we may all grasp hands as brothers, united in mankind's common cause.

The symbols of religion are ciphers of which the key is to be found in moral experience. It is in vain we pore over the ciphers unless we possess the key.

We cannot adopt the way of living that was satisfactory a hundred years ago. The world in which we live has changed, and we must change with it.

An optimist is a person who sees only the lights in the picture, whereas a pessimist sees only the shadows. An idealist, however, is one who sees the light and the shadows, but in addition sees something else: the possibility of changing the picture, of making the lights prevail over the shadows.

Author Picture
First Name
Felix
Last Name
Adler
Birth Date
1851
Death Date
1933
Bio

German-born American Educator, Founder of Ethical Culture Movement, Professor of Political and Social Ethics, Rationalist, Lecturer, Social Reformer