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Prophet—the Hatmaker's Son
The Life of Robert Muller

by Douglas Gillies

Mount Everest

During my first interview with Robert Muller, I asked, "How can an ordinary person like me think like a global citizen?"

Muller said, "It's easy. You take everything you do and multiply it by six billion."

That changed everything. I started taking cloth shopping bags to the grocery store, because six billion paper bags, one bag per person, neatly folded and stacked, would rise 1,666 miles or 8.8 million feet (300 Mount Everests). If the bags were stacked in Los Angeles and the wind blew them over, the top would scatter paper all the way to Kansas City—and that is only one bag per person. How tall would the mountain be if we tossed six billion plastic water bottles in a pile?

In less than a minute, Muller had changed my world view. I began to wonder, how did he learn to think like that? How did he create so many world programs at the United Nations? How did he change so many people's lives? These questions nagged me for six years, until I finally set out to write the biography of Robert Muller—because I wanted to know how he learned to think like a global citizen.

Prophet—the Hatmaker's Son. The life of Robert Muller

Prophet—the Hatmaker's Son is the biography of Robert Muller. It is an adventure story about a boy who grew up in Alsace Lorraine on the border between France and Germany and escaped the Gestapo to fight with the French Resistance in World War II. After the war, he left his home in Sarreguemines and joined the United Nations so that he could become a peacemaker and help to end the escalating catastrophe of world wars. He rose in the ranks from intern to Assistant Secretary General. He launched the World Food Program. The word environment was coined in his office in 1968 as he set out to organize the United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm (1972). He supported the formation of the Parliament of World Religions, which was convened in Chicago in 1992.

Ted Turner said, "Robert Muller is one of the greatest men to come along in a long time."  Margaret Mead said he was "the most brilliant man in the United Nations."

As I studied Robert Muller's papers, pored through the UN archives, and interviewed Robert 42 times over 60 hours, I came to appreciate the enormity of his contribution to a world that might go forward without descending into yet another world war. I have listed many of his accomplishments. He was more than a man, I came to realize. Muller had worked for enlightened world governance for so long that he embodied the spirit of public service, but his lifelong commitment to peace had lifted him another notch. Robert Muller was a prophet—not in the sense of a voice for God, but rather as a man who could foresee future events and initiate programs that would lift humanity to a higher potential.

"Robert Muller, protypical global citizen, is a precursor of the coming universal humans we must strive to become. I have admired him for twenty years. My respect for him deepened as I read more of his extraordinary, exemplary life story."
            — Hazel Henderson, author, Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy

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If there is to be a civilized world in another hundred years, Muller's words will ring out like a clarion. His ideas, his spiritual fortitude, and his passion for life will leave an indelible impression on future generations. He will be remembered as a visionary whose message during a time of transition helped to lay the foundation for humanity's shift of allegiance from too many quarreling nations to one unified commitment to the Earth.

Robert Muller's life makes sense of the 20th Century. The more time that passes, the brighter his light will shine.

Ten years ago, Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson published Cultural Creatives in which they described Robert Muller. No one cares more deeply about ecology or has done more to save the planet. His life has been dedicated to peace and social justice, and he has long been regarded as one of the great spiritual voices in the United Nations. Throughout his career, he was always both inner-directed and socially concerned, an unsurpassed activist, and one of the most prolific contributors to good causes the world has ever seen. In short, since the 1940s, Robert Muller has been the ultimate, and possibly the first Cultural Creative on the world stage.

When Robert Muller was 86 years old, I asked him as we sat by Devereaux Slough in Goleta watching a Great Blue heron glide across the water, "What's next?"

He said, "We just have to remember that we are one people and this is one world."

Devereaux Slough       


Midwest Book Review

"Muller's life has been dedicated to the establishment and maintenance of peace. Perhaps there has never been a time when his words—and the important work carried out in his lifetime and under his gentle eye—have been more important, more necessary for the good of our souls and even, in a very real way, of our lives. Douglas Gillies has done an admirable job reanimating Robert Muller's past, bringing home a message that has never been needed more. "  

—Lincoln Cho, reviewer for January Magazine

"When the true history of the Twentieth Century is told, Robert Muller's name will stand out as one of the greatest world servers of all time. This powerful book is filled with stories and anecdotes that delight as they illumine the path of greatness. Prophet ennobles as it instructs. One discovers how high intelligence matched with deep compassion can lead to the way of wisdom and the winning of a better world. Robert Muller is a spiritual giant as well as a hugely original thinker, and the story of his life is a testament to the glory of the human spirit."

—Jean Houston, Ph.D., author of Jump Time and A Mythic Life

"It's a hard book to put down—fast-paced, exciting, and very moving."  

—Neale Donald Walsch, author Conversations with God

"A detailed and insightful portrayal of the earlier life and times of Dr. Robert Muller. Gillies has painted a series of realistic and emotionally sensitive collages which portray in humanistic detail the shifting cultural landscapes of Europe, as social stability become shattered and virtually every aspect of normal life is dramatically disrupted by the overwhelming impacts of World War II. "  

—Elliott C. Maynard

"The book recounts the life course of a man determined to see the end of the horrors of global warfare. The text is constructed of deftly interwoven vignettes taken from Robert Muller's life, and it is dramatic enough to hold the reader's attention like a good novel. Robert Muller was gifted with an unflagging sense of optimism even though he himself lived through the devastation of World War II and came close to death on a number of occasions, as skillfully recorded in this book."  

—Brother Aaron Raverty, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue

About the Author

Douglas Gillies, American

Douglas Gillies wrote Prophet—the Hatmaker's Son. The Life of Robert Muller (2003), Paradise Earth (2008), and 101 Cool Ways to Die (2009). His documentaries include: "On the Edge," "Savio," "Fall of Man," and "The Big Picture."

Gillies majored in psychology at UCLA. During law school, he worked as Assistant Legislative Council for the Congress of Micronesia, where he wrote a speech for independence that might have triggered a tiny little revolution.

After winning several jury trials in Santa Cruz, California, he served as Directing Attorney of Senior Citizens Legal Services and facilitated formation of the Seniors Council of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. He moved to San Francisco and joined the law firm of Swaner, Leslie, Flenniken, and Gillies, where he participated in complex litigation before branching out into writing and filmmaking.

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