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

For a long time the conviction has been dimly felt in the community that, without prejudice to existing institutions, the legal day of weekly rest might be employed to advantage for purposes affecting the general good.

It is written that the last enemy to be vanquished is death. We should begin early in life to vanquish this enemy by obliterating every trace of the fear of death from our minds.

The divine in man is our sole ground for believing that there is anything divine in the universe outside of man. Man is the revealer of the divine. At bottom, the world is to be interpreted in terms of joy, but of a joy that includes all the pain, includes it and transforms it and transcends it. The Light of the World is a light that is saturated with the darkness which it has overcome and transfigured.

The past speaks to us in a thousand voices, warning and comforting, animating and stirring to action. What its great thinkers have thought and written on the deepest problems of life, shall we not hear and enjoy? The future calls upon us to prepare its way. Dare we fail to answer its solemn summons?

There is a great and crying evil in modern society. It is want of purpose. It is that narrowness of vision which shuts out the wider vistas of the soul. It is the absence of those sublime emotions which, wherever they arise, do not fall to exalt and consecrate existence.

Why should there be any more the old dividing line between man and his brother-man? Why should the fires of prejudice flare up anew between us? why should we not maintain this common ground which we have found at last, and hedge it round, and protect it — the stronghold of freedom and of all the humanities for the long years to come?

For more than three thousand years men have quarreled concerning the formulas of their faith.

It may be impossible for a man by merely willing it to add wings to his body, but it is possible for any man, by merely willing it, to add wings to his soul. This perennial miracle of the moral nature is capable of happening at any time.

The ethical element of religion has ever been its truly vital and quickening force. It is this which lends such majesty to the speeches of the Prophets, which gives such ineffable power and sweetness to the words of Jesus. Has this ethical element become less important in our age? Has the need of accentuating it become less imperative?

The peace that passeth understanding is that which comes when the pain is not relieved, which subsists in the midst of the painful situation, suffusing it, which springs out of the pain itself, which shimmers on the crest of the wave of pain, which is the spear of frustration transfigured into the shaft of light. It is upon those we love that we must anchor ourselves spiritually in the last moments. The sense of interconnectedness with them stands out vividly by way of contrast at the very moment when our mortal connection with them is about to be dissolved. And the intertwining of our life with theirs, the living in the life that is in them, is but a part of our living in the infinite manifold of the spiritual life. The thought of this, as apprehended, not in terms of knowledge, but in immediate experience, begets the peace that passeth understanding. And it is upon the bosom of that peace that we can pass safely out of the realm of time and space.

There is a universal element in man which he can assert by so acting as if the purpose of the Universe were also his purpose. It is the function of the supreme ordeals of life to develop in men this power, to give to their life this distinction, this height of dignity, these vast horizons.

You do not build your own houses, nor make your own garments, nor bake your own bread, simply because you know that if you were to attempt all these things they would all be more or less ill done.

Freely do I own to this purpose of reconciliation, and candidly do I confess that it is my dearest object to exalt the present movement above the strife of contending sects and parties, and at once to occupy that common ground where we may all meet, believers and unbelievers, for purposes in themselves lofty and unquestioned by any. Surely it is time that a beginning were made in this direction. For more than three thousand years men have quarreled concerning the formulas of their faith. The earth has been drenched with blood shed in this cause, the face of day darkened with the blackness of the crimes perpetrated in its name. There have been no direr wars than religious wars, no bitterer hates than religious hates, no fiendish cruelty like religious cruelty; no baser baseness than religious baseness. It has destroyed the peace of families, turned the father against the son, the brother against the brother.

Let us found religion upon a basis of perfect intellectual honesty. Religion, if it is to mean anything at all, must stand for the highest truth. How then can the cause of truth be served by the sacrifice, more or less disguised, of one's intellectual convictions?

The ethical manifold, conceived of as unified, furnishes, or rather is, the ideal of the whole.

The platform of an Ethical Society is itself the altar; the address must be the fire that burns thereon.

There may be, and there ought to be, progress in the moral sphere. The moral truths which we have inherited from the past need to be expanded and restated. In times of misfortune we require for our support something of which the truth is beyond all question, in which we can put an implicit trust, "though the heavens should fall." A merely borrowed belief is, at such time, like a rotten plank across a raging torrent. The moment we step upon it, it gives way beneath our feet.

A human being is not to be handled as a tool but is to be respected and revered.

Gladness, in some instances, springs from a natural buoyancy of temperament, and is quite consistent with shallowness and superficiality of character. In other cases it is coincident with the swift flow of the currents of the blood, and ceases when the stream flows more slowly and begins to stagnate. Or it is due to gifts which an exceptional good fortune showers into the laps of favoured mortals. Gladness of this sort comes with happiness and departs with it.

Let us learn from the lips of death the lessons of life. Let us live truly while we live, live for what is true and good and lasting. And let the memory of our dead help us to do this. For they are not wholly separated from us, if we remain loyal to them. In spirit they are with us. And we may think of them as silent, invisible, but real presences in our households.

The Ethical Society, therefore, is like a Church in maintaining, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining the custom of public assemblies on Sunday.

The question what to believe is perhaps the most momentous that anyone can put to himself. Our beliefs are not to be classed among the luxuries, but among the necessaries of existence. They become particularly important in times of trouble. They are like the life-boats carried by ocean ships. As long as the sea is smooth and there is every appearance of a prosperous voyage, the passengers seldom take note of the boats or inquire into their sea-worthiness. But when the storm breaks and danger approaches, then the capacity of the boats and their soundness become matters of the first importance.

To those who are longing for a higher life, who deeply feel the need of religious satisfactions, we suggest that there is a way in which the demands of the head and the heart may be reconciled. Religion is not necessarily allied with dogma, a new kind of faith is possible, based not upon legend and tradition, not upon the authority of any book, but upon the moral nature of man.

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.

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