Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation
The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the worlds affairs. The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe.
Robert Muller (1923-2010)
Robert Muller, whose birth anniversary we mark on 11 March, was the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations, and, after his retirement, he served as Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War. As a young man, he joined the French Resistance movement during the Second World War when Alsace-Lorraine had been re-annexed by Germany. At the end of the War, he earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg. Strasbourg was to become the city symbolic of French-German reconciliation and is today home of the European Parliament.
Determined to work for peace having seen the destructive impact of war, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked primarily on economic and social issues. For many years, he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close contact with NGOs whose work he always encouraged
In 1970, he joined the cabinet of the then Secretary-General U Thant, who was Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971. U Thant had a deep impact on the thinking of Robert Muller. U Thants inner motivations were inspired by a holistic philosophy drawn from his understanding of Buddhism, by an intensive personal discipline and by a sense of compassions for humans. U Thant had been promoted to his UN post by the military leaders of Burma who feared that had he stayed in the country, he would have opposed their repressive measures and economic incompetence. Although U Thant was reserved in expressing his spiritual views in public speeches, he was much more willing to discuss ideas and values with his inner circle of colleagues. U Thant held that the trouble of our times is that scientific and technological progress has been so rapid that moral and spiritual development has not been able to keep up with it.
Muller agreed with U Thants analysis. As Muller was a good public speaker, he often expressed these views both in UN meetings and in addresses to NGOs and other public meetings. Muller became increasingly interested in the views of the French Jesuit philosopher Pierrre Teihard de Chardin who had lived his last years of his life in New York City. For Teihard, as he wrote in Phenomenon of Man No longer will man be able to see himself unrelated to mankind neither will he be able to see mankind unrelated to life, nor life unrelated to the universe.
Muller saw the UN as a prime instrument for developing a sense of humanity as all members of one human family and for relating humans to the broader community of life and Nature. As Muller wrote We are entering one of the most fascinating and challenging areas of human evolution. In order to win this new battle for civilization, we must be able to rely upon a vastly increased number of people with a world view. We need world managers and servers in many fields.
I had the pleasure of knowing Robert Muller well as he was often in Geneva for his UN economic and social work and, at that time, had a home in France near Geneva, where he did much of his writing. Muller was also deeply influenced by the thinking of another Alsatian, Albert Schweitzer who had also spent most of his life outside France. I had known Albert Schweitzer when I was working for the Ministry of Education of Gabon in the early 1960s. Both Schweitzer and I, influenced by Norman Cousins, had been active against A-Bomb tests in the atmosphere, and so I had been welcomed for discussions at the hospital in Lambaréné. For Muller, Schweitzer with his philosophy of reverence for life and the need for a spiritual cultural renewal was a fellow world citizen and a model of linking thought and action.
For Muller, the UN was the bridge that helped to cross frontiers and hopefully to develop reconciliation through a common vision of needs and potential for action.
Robert MULLER (1923-2010) A Tribute
Robert Muller, the former Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Service of the United Nations and the Honorary President of the Association of World Citizens died on 20 September 2010. He was brought up in Alsace-Lorraine still marked by the results of the First World War. He joined the French Resistance Movement during the Second World War and then earned a Doctorate in Law and Economics at the University of Strasbourg.
Determined to work for peace, he joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1948 where he worked on economic and social issues. For many years he was the Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. His work with ECOSOC brought him into close cooperation with NGOs which he always encouraged. He was particularly concerned with education which would prepare people for active citizenship in an interdependent world and was awarded the UNESCO Peace Education Prize in 1989.
After 40 years of service to the United Nations, he retired and devoted himself to the University for Peace in Costa Rica, an institution that he had helped to create when still a UN officer. He lived part of each year in Costa Rica on a small farm near the University for Peace. The rest of the year he lived in California and carried on an intensive program of writing and speaking.
I had the pleasure of knowing Robert Muller well as he was often in Geneva for his UN economic and social work and, at the time, had a home in France near Geneva. His view on the world was much influenced by two French thinkers who also spent most of their lives outside France, Pierre Teihard de Chardin and Albert Schweitzer.
Robert Muller had participated actively in efforts to develop reconciliation between France and Germany after the Second World War, an effort which led to his understanding of the importance of forgiveness as expressed in his prose-poem To Forgive
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