Tag: <span>Albert Schweitzer</span>

Robert Muller Portraits of World Citizens.

Robert Muller: Crossing Frontiers for Reconciliation

By Rene Wadlow.

The time has come for the implementation of a spiritual vision of the world’s affairs. 

The entire planet must elevate itself into the spiritual, cosmic throbbing of the universe…

I dream that all governments will join together to manage this beautiful Earth

and its precious humanity in Peace, Justice, and Happiness”  

                                                            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 CitizensHe 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.

The Thinking of Robert Muller.

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 Thant’s inner motivations; we’re inspired by a holistic philosophy drawn from his understanding of Buddhism, by an intensive personal discipline, and by a sense of compassion 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.”

You might be interested in reading: Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.

Muller agreed with U Thant’s 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 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin; who had lived the last years of his life in New York City. For Teilhard, 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.”

Oe Thant in transit at Schiphol during a press conference, Oe Thant (1 July 1963). By Jac. de Nijs / Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Sense of Humanity.

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 worldview.  We need world managers and servers in many fields.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1947). By Unknown author unknown author; CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>; via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Teilhard de Chardin: The Noosphere and Evolution Toward World Unity.

Albert Schweitzer and Norman Cousins.

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 Lambaste. 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 Robert 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.

Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965). By Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00014770 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Albert Schweitzer. Reverence for Life.

Norman Cousins Picture: Apurva Madia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

You might be interested in reading: Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Note.

For two autobiographic books, see Robert Muller. What War Taught Me About Peace (New York: Doubleday ) and Robert Muller. Most of All, They Taught Me Happiness (New York: Doubleday, 1978) .

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Reverence for Life Rapprochement of Cultures.

Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life

Featured Image: Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965). By Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00014770 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons.

The human race must be converted to a fresh mental attitude if it is not to suffer extinction…A new renaissance, much greater than that in which we emerged from the Middle Ages, is absolutely essential. Are we going to draw from the spirit enough strength to create new conditions and turn our faces once again to civilization, or are we going to draw our inspiration from our surroundings and go down with them to ruin?                                                                                                 

Albert Schweitzer.

As the world citizen Norman Cousins has noted:

“the main point about Schweitzer is that he helped make it possible for a twentieth-century man to unblock his moral vision. There is a tendency in a relativistic age for a man to pursue all sides of a question as an end in itself, finding relief and even refuge in the difficulty of defining good and evil. The result is a clogging of the moral sense, a certain feeling of self-consciousness, or even discomfort when questions with ethical content are raised. Schweitzer furnished the nourishing evidence that nothing is more natural in life than a moral response, which exists independently of precise definition, its use leading not to exhaustion but to new energy.”

The moral response for Schweitzer was “reverence for life”. Schweitzer had come to Lambaréné in April 1913, already well known for his theological reflections on the eschatological background of Jesus’ thought as well as his study of Bach. As an Alsatian, he was concerned with the lack of mutual understanding, the endless succession of hatred and fear, between France and Germany that led to war a year later.

Since Alsace was part of Germany at the time, Schweitzer was considered an enemy alien in the French colony of Gabon. When war broke out he was first restricted to the missionary station, where he had started his hospital and later was deported and interned in France. He returned to Gabon after the First World War, even more, convinced of the need to infuse thought with a strong ethical impulse. His reflections in The Decay and Restoration of Civilisation trace in a fundamental way the decay. He saw clearly that “the future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaningless and hopelessness which characterizes the thoughts and convictions of men today, and reaching a state of fresh hope and fresh determination.”

This picture of en:Norman Cousins was taken from http://history.nasa.gov/EP-125/part2.htm And was probably created by NASA at the time of the panel it was taken from (1976). By See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

It could for you to be interesting to read: Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Reverence for Life.

He was looking for a basic principle that would provide the basis of the needed renewal. That principle arose from a mystical experience. He recounts how he was going downriver to Ngomo, a missionary station with a small clinic. In those days there were steamboats on the Ogowé and seated on the deck, he had been trying to write all day. After a while, he stopped writing and only watched the equatorial forest as the boat moved slowly on. Then the words “reverence for life” came into his mind, and his reflections had found their core: life must be both affirmed and revered. Ethics, by its very nature, is linked to the affirmation of the good.

Schweitzer saw that he was:

“life which wants to live, surrounded by the life which wants to live. Being will-to-life, I feel the obligation to respect all will-to-life about me as equal to my own. The fundamental idea of good is thus that it consists in preserving life, in favoring it, in wanting to being it to its highest value, and evil consists in destroying life, doing it injury, hindering its development.”

Erfurt fur das Leben, – reverence for life – was the key concept for Schweitzer – all life longs for fullness and development as I do myself. However, the will to live is not static; there is an inner energy that pushes on to a higher state – a will to self-realization. Basically, this energy can be called spiritual. As Dr. Schweitzer wrote:

“One truth stands firm. All that happens in world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history.”

The use of Schweitzer’s principle of Reverence for Life can have a profound impact on how humans treat the environment. Reverence for Life rejects the notion that humans can use the environment for their own purposes without any consideration of its consequences for other living things. It accepts the view that there is a reciprocal relationship among living things. Each species is linked to many others.

Aldo Leopold in his early statement of a deep ecology ethic, A Sand County Almanac, makes the same point. “All ethics so far evolved rest on a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts…The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soil, water, plants, and animals, or collectively, the land.”

War and the potential of the use of nuclear weapons are the obvious opposite of reverence for life. Thus, in the mid-1950s, when the political focus was on the testing in the atmosphere of nuclear weapons, Schweitzer came out strongly for the abolition of nuclear tests. Some had warned him that such a position could decrease his support among those who admired his medical work in Africa; but who wanted to support continued nuclear tests.

However, for Schweitzer, an ethic that is not presented publicly is no ethic at all. His statements on the nuclear weapons issue are collected in his Peace or atomic war? (1958). The statements had an impact on many, touched by the ethical appeal when they had not been moved to action by political reasoning. These protests led to the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which bans tests in the atmosphere – an important first step.

Aldo Leopold (left) and Olaus Muire sitting together outdoors, annual meeting of The Wilderness Society Council, Old Rag, Virginia, 1946. By Howard Zahniser, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Schweitzer was confident that an ethical impulse was in all people and would manifest itself if given the proper opportunity.

“Just as the rivers are much less numerous than underground streams, so the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what men and women carry in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. Mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted and bringing the underground waters to the surface.”

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Albert Schweitzer Rapprochement of Cultures.

Albert Schweitzer: Respect for Life Against Nuclear Death.

Featured Image: Respect for life’ 1974 – (Albert Schweitzer), Deventer/The Netherlands Made by Pieter de Monchy (Hengelo 1916). By FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Civilization is made up of four ideals: the ideal of the individual; the ideal of social and political organization;
the ideal of spiritual and religious organization; the ideal of humanity as a whole.
On the basis of these four ideals, thought tries conclusions with progress.

Albert Schweitzer  The Philosophy of Civilization.

Albert Schweitzer, whose birth anniversary we note on 14 January, was concerned with the ways that these four ideals of civilization are developed into a harmonious whole.  Late in his life, when I knew him in the early 1960s, he was most concerned with the ideal of humanity as a whole.

He had come out strongly against nuclear weapons, weapons which were the opposite of respect for life which was the foundation of his ethical values.

Albert Schweitzer

 Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) Bohn, 11 November 1955. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00014770 / CC-BY-SA, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons.

(1)  “Man can hardly recognize the devils of his creation.   Let me give you a definition of ethics.  It is good to maintain and further life.  It is bad to damage and destroy life.  By having reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world.  By practicing respect for life, we become of the human family and our  good, deep and alive.”

For Albert Schweitzer, our sense of unity of the human family and our obligation to future generations was threatened as never before in the two World wars that he had seen. I had been active since the mid-1950s in efforts to ban testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere – a focus of anti-nuclear efforts at the time.  I had also worked with the world citizen Norman Cousins who had visited Lambaréné and had written a lively book on his exchanges  with  Schweitzer.(2)  Thus I was well received by Schweitzer at his hospital in Lambarene; and we had useful discussions. I was working for the Ministry of Education  at the time and was at the Protestant Secondary School which was a mile down the Ogowe River from  the hospital.

It was Norman Cousins, active in disarmament efforts  in the USA, who urged Schweitzer to speak out against nuclear weapons.  Schweitzer had been awared the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian efforts in Africa.  Thus he came into ever-greater contact with people working for peace.

However, he was reluctant to make statements on issues on which he was not expert. As he said to Cousins:

” All my life, I have carefully stayed away from making pronouncements on public matters. Groups would come to me for statements or I would be asked to sign joint letters or the press would ask me for my views on certain political questions.  And always I would feel forced to say no.”  

However, he went on: 

“The world needs a system of enforceable law to prevent aggression and deal with the threats to the peace, but theimportant thing to do is to make a start somewhere…I think maybe the place to take hold is with the matter of nuclear testing…If a ban on nuclear testing can be put into effect then perhaps the stage can be set  for other and broader measures related to peace.”

Norman Cousins.

This picture of en:Norman Cousins was taken from http://history.nasa.gov/EP-125/part2.htm And was probably created by NASA at the time of the panel it was taken from (1976). By See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Peace or Atomic War.

Schweitzer’s 1958 appeal “Peace or Atomic War” was an important contribution to the growing protests against nuclear testing and their fallout of radiation.  On 16 October 1963 The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water (more commonly called the Partial Test Ban) came into force.

Today, we still need those other and broader measures related to peace and for a constant affirmation of respect for life.

It could for you to be interesting to read: Norman Cousins: A Pioneer of Track II Diplomacy.

Notes.

1) See Albert Schweitzer. Peace or Atomic War (New York: Henry Holt, 1958)
2) See Norman Cousins; Dr Schweitzer of Lambarene (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960)
3) Also from Rene Wallow in Ovi magazine:
Albert Schweitzer: To say yes to life HERE
Albert Schweitzer: A Universal Ethic HERE
Albert Schweitzer: To turn our faces once again to civilization. HERE

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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