Anvil of Experience

James A. Long

Occasionally in the process of a century some simple circumstance occurs which offers the avenue for the birth of an idea which in itself is destined to influence and strengthen the fabric of men's souls. Today we recognize one such when in 1949 four business men, concerned over the decline of spiritual values, decided to try to do something about it. The effect of their considerations has been a series of five-minute radio broadcasts on which men and women from every field of experience present their personal philosophies.

Run without profit and depending upon anonymous contributions, this program entitled "This I Believe" and conducted by Edward R. Murrow is broadcast over 200 U.S. stations and 140 foreign stations, as well as over the Voice of America in six languages. This I Believe in book form is a best-seller in the U.S., and has now been published in Great Britain. Besides appearing regularly in 90 newspapers, Columbia records have released a LP "This I Believe" album containing the beliefs of ten living Americans and ten Immortals.

The value of This I Believe is not merely in the individual contribution, but rather in its cumulative effect — in the discovery that every type of person, from poet to football coach, from engineer to artist, from business magnate to war veteran: all have a deeply rooted philosophy, a basic moral and spiritual code, which is the governing principle of their lives. Most of the contributions, writes Mr. Murrow in the Foreword to the book, "reflect an abiding belief in the importance and the inviolability of the individual spirit; they reflect a belief in the dignity of the individual and the conviction that any belief worthy of an individual must be hammered out by that individual on the anvil of experience and cannot be packaged and delivered by print, radio, or television."

Each of us in the course of this "hammering" process has felt singularly alone on the small rock of spiritual values we had discovered for ourselves, not realizing that our neighbor had also fashioned for himself his own rock of values upon which he was building a character worthy of his faith. The significance of This I Believe is the revelation that instead of many islands surrounded by a sea of confusion, we find ourselves part of a vast continent of thought and inspiration inhabited by our brothers of many races and creeds, of all faiths or none, and whose code of principles has broken the barriers of dogma and collectively created the spiritual foundation upon which the race is growing toward its natural heritage.

What a man believes deep within the core of his soul becomes the motivator of his actions. At this particular cycle when the material aspect of life is being so widely disseminated in every part of the globe, it is imperative that the spiritual basis of men's lives be liberally broadcast.

(From Sunrise magazine, April 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)

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