Despite Everything

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I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1925, to non-practicing Lutheran parents living in a predominantly Catholic population and I was sent to a convenient Catholic grade school. Even though I was part of a secular family, we had several servants who were all devout Catholics and taught me to love Jesus and pray to him. For high school I was placed in a boarding school run by Hitler’s SA organization near Munich in Germany. There I became indoctrinated in Nazi ideology and I left all my previous beliefs behind. However, in my search for the purpose of one’s existence and surrounded by so many different beliefs, I held one principle dear to me: “I will always honour and respect whatever is sacred to other people.”

During World War II, I was trained as a fighter pilot, but the war ended before I was ever assigned to a combat mission. I did not know what to do after the war. Then, I read Albert Schweitzer’s The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization, the first part of The Philosophy of Civilization. As explained in his short preface, he had started to write his first draft in the year 1900, reworked it in the years 1914 to 1917 in the jungles of Gabon in Africa, then finally had it published by the C.H. Beck publishing house in Munich, Germany in 1923. The original was published in German with the title: Verfall und Wiederaufbau der Kultur. It was a small booklet of only 65 pages, but to me, it was a gift from heaven. It became my inspiration to finish high school in a course for veterans, to go to university in Vienna, and to graduate with a Ph.D. in Art History and Journalism in 1949.

Disillusionment in religious beliefs, and the senseless loss of human lives in two World Wars during the bloodiest century of humanity, had ingrained in me a desire to develop a philosophy of the purpose of human existence. My ultimate goal was to develop my own philosophy of a universal civilization with a common universal religion, to find the foundation for universal peace. However, at the time, there was a pressing need to earn a living. I was married and our first son was born in 1950. Three years later, in 1953, I immigrated to Canada, where I had to work to feed a growing family. Life carried on and unfortunately, my spiritual goal was indefinitely postponed.

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