This I Believe

Murray, Henry A. (Henry Alexander)

  • Henry Murray describes his belief that the world will not be able to progress and escape the threat of atomic war until a synthesized philosophy of eastern and western ideals can be adopted by thousands, and a world government achieved.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Doctor Henry A. Murray is a professor in the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University. For fifteen years he headed the Harvard psychological clinic and during World War Two served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Office of Strategic Services. His degrees include an MD from Columbia University and a PhD from Cambridge University in England. He is the author of “Explorations in Personality” and other books in the field of psychology. His usual occupation is examining and evaluating the mental processes of others but now he looks carefully at his own thoughts.
I believe that the word “believe” is, in its various meanings, slippery as a snake, and like the fabled snake, all too apt in a bewildered age like ours to lead us into evil, the evil of hypocrisy. The word comes as a temptation to retreat, for peace of soul, to some pious platitude or comforting banality, rather than brave the realization that we have not yet conceived a sufficient remedy for the agues of our time. Experience has taught me to believe in no fixation of beliefs but in the exciting process of perpetually reconstructing them in order to encompass new facts, experiences, and conditions. This, as I see it, is the essence and responsibility of freedom. I am strongly inclined to shun inert ideas and cleave to live ones, born out of joy or tribulation that demand embodiment in action.
As for personal history, I confess to constant gratefulness for the belief-engendering delights of mutual love, fellowship, nature, travel, literature, and the vocation of psychology. My faith in the potential value of psychology has never wavered, but I cast no vote for the omnipotence of science, and I’m appalled by the popular assumption that what is good for the machine is good for man.
I believe, of course, in the cardinal virtues of honesty, courage, charity, and dedication, and I’m still trying to bring my atom into line with them.
But the reiteration of these verities is evidently not enough, since after more than two thousand years of earnest preaching, that large part of the human race which appears, in its own eyes, most advanced in these respects is on the verge of proving itself an utter failure. The gravity of the world’s strait, in truth, has so overshadowed my own vibrations and fruitions that I have come to believe that nothing is of single significance today save those thoughts and actions which in some measure purpose to contribute to the diagnosis and alleviation of the global neurosis which so affects us.
There will be no freedom for any exuberant form of life, in my estimation, without freedom from atomic war, and no freedom from war without a democratic world government and police force; and no world government without a radical conversion and reeducation of thousands of personalities in the light of a new conception: synthesis of eastern and western wisdom.
Many persons, from one angle or another, have envisaged the shadowy contours of such a faith, one which portrays the path of development through mutual affections and reciprocations—interpersonal, inter-corporate, and international—
as more gratifying, maturing, beneficent, and creative than the rewards of unitary ambition, conflict, and vain glorious superiority. Present conditions, however, are so extremely unfavorable to an evolutionary advance of such scale and scope that we would be well advised to prepare our sinews for a long and protracted era of ferocity and anguish, until our devils are subdued and our eyes opened.
There the creed of Professor Henry A. Murray of Boston, Massachusetts, a psychologist and teacher who is deeply concerned with the problems which confront each of us as individuals and our society as a whole.