Dr. Henry Murray began making a name for himself during World War II by working with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to train its spies to withstand the most brutal interrogation tactics they may be faced with at the hands of their Nazi enemies. In the years to come, as the OSS would give way to the CIA, Murray continued his work until finally choosing to accept a prestigious role at Harvard University as a professor of psychology. There, he met a young prodigy who had been accepted to Harvard at age sixteen, and he accepted that young man into his newest experiment – an experiment he told those participating in would involve them establishing “personal philosophies about life.”
The brilliant young student, who was named Theodore, was only seventeen years old at the onset of the study, and was told to write an essay outlining his personal philosophy on life. He was told he would then be given an opportunity to defend the fine points of his outlook against another undergraduate student. Instead, Theodore arrived with his essay and was placed in a single chair beneath flood lights and facing a one-way mirror. They attached electrodes to his chest and arms, and then permitted the “debate” to begin… but his opponent wasn’t an undergraduate student with his own philosophy to defend, he was something else:
“A law school student who had been prepped to tear into the student and to mock and ridicule their ideas and their values. To get them as angry as they possibly could,” author Alston Chase told CBS news. “After they had done this film footage… they brought the students back… and showed them the film footage. Showed them being humiliated. They were rubbing salt into the wounds…”
Theodore would remain in the experiment, along with twenty other participants, for three more years. He was the youngest to participate in the study, and was given the codename, “lawful.” Lawful would undergo repeated efforts to skew his perception of self, his values, and his philosophy on life throughout the length of the study, suffering ridicule and harassment expertly designed by the same man who once trained America’s best spies to withstand psychological torture at the hands of the Nazis. He was never made aware that the experiment actually had the aim of “psychic deconstruction” – a task performed by humiliating undergraduates and forcing them to experience severe mental and emotional stresses.