This I Believe

Humphreys, Christmas


  • Christmas Humphreys recounts his search for beliefs that he could live by, and states his beliefs in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Christmas Humphreys is one of the leading figures of the law in England. He is Queen’s Council and Senior Prosecuting Council to the Treasury at the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London. He was prosecutor of Klaus Fuchs in the atom spy case and of the top Japanese war criminals. He is president of the London Buddhists’ Society and author of a comprehensive history of Buddhism. He is also a poet, an authority on Chinese art and a Judo expert. Here are the personal beliefs of Christmas Humphreys.
It has been said that a man believes a doctrine when he behaves as if it were true. This is a high standard for belief but worth attempting. I was brought up in the Church of England, and as a boy at school in the First World War, sincerely followed its doctrine. When I found that nations on opposite sides appeal to the same god for victory and bishops blessed the arms of war, I turned my thoughts elsewhere. I read widely of comparative religion and found theosophy, as taught by Madame Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, to be the tree of which all religions and philosophies and most forms of science were the branches. But I wanted a way of life which would satisfy both reason and the heart, which was utterly tolerant of other ways of reaching the same goal, and which might be trodden at every moment of the waking day.
I found it in Buddhism. I read Coomaraswamy’s Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism and at once accepted it as attractive theory. In thirty years of application, I have found it to be true. I accept the four noble truths of Buddhism, for I find that the world is filled with suffering and that the cause of most of it is selfishness—the rival claims of a thousand million petty selves, each one of which believes that its desires may be pursued at the expense, if need be, of the whole. I find that the cause of suffering, the craving of self for self, may be removed by mental and moral training applied in daily life, and that the Buddha’s eightfold path provides that training.
I have found that the law of cause-effect applies to the moral as well as the physical realm, and that we experience and indeed largely consist of the effects, pleasant or unpleasant, of all our thoughts and actions in this life and in the long series which preceded it. For I cannot believe that this is our only life on Earth. I believe that we have lived on this Earth many times before and will return to it many times again. When we sleep, we wake again to continue learning the lessons as yet unlearned. And the same applies to the illusion which men call death. For indeed as modern scientists are beginning to learn, there is no death.
I believe that life is one and that all things, without exception, manifest that life. But I do not believe that this unity is a god to be reached by hymns or prayer. It is absolute and therefore unthinkable, and I delight in the Buddha’s recorded words: “Work out your own salvation with diligence.”
In nineteen-forty-six, I went around the world and stayed with friends in a dozen countries of the East and West. All I found were men, women, and children, with jobs for the men, homes for the women, and children at play. The rest is politics and other offensive forms of interference by the power-loving few in the lives of the peace-loving many.
I believe in the spiritual brotherhood of man and the essential nobility and freedom of each. Each must develop the best within him for the good of all, and all that leads to that end is good. I agree with the tremendous words of Thoreau: “I know that the enterprise is worthy. I know that things work well. I have heard no bad news.”
Those were the beliefs of Christmas Humphreys leading British lawyer.