THE THIRD OBJECT
by Hugh Shearman
The Theosophical Society has three principal Objects. In the pursuit of the first two Objects much has been achieved, and much likewise has been done in the pursuit of the Third; but one wonders if the extraordinary dynamic implications of the Third Object have been fully realized by all members.
The Objects of the Theosophical Society were altered considerably during the first twenty years of the Society’s existence; and its Founders and early leaders may well have had an aim, a deeply felt sense of direction, and yet have experienced some difficulty in expressing it in words which would neither restrict nor betray. In 1875 the Objects were “To collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the universe”. The present form of the Objects was reached only in 1896 after they had passed through many successive changes. These changes were often slight and subtle so far as words were concerned or even so far as their more immediate meaning was concerned; but they were sometimes profound in their larger meaning and implications. Such, for example, was the change in the First Object from “To form the nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood . . .” to “To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood . . .” When one studies the whole series of changes which brought the three Objects to their present form, one can easily seem to see the influence of a Higher Authority gradually guiding the early leaders of the Society towards a really sufficing form of words.
Now, after the passage of more than half a century since the final drafting of the three Objects in their present form, we have had repeated cause to recognize with what profound wisdom the drafting was done; for the three Objects have been found to contain within their wording implications which have always met the demands of a rapidly changing world. Though cast in a form of words, the three Objects are not in themselves static. They are resilient. More than that, they are dynamic. They do not belong only to the age in which they were drafted, but leap forward easily and naturally to meet the future.
In none of the three Objects is this dynamic and expansive quality so remarkable as in the third: “To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.” At first glance and understood superficially, these words only vaguely imply some kind of investigation or research such as might be pursued by many other kinds of organization. But further consideration shows us more than that, for we are concerned with unexplained laws and latent powers. At once it becomes clear that in our Society we are always concerned with the utmost frontier of knowledge and experience. We are pioneers. As soon as a law of Nature is explained or a power in man becomes patent instead of latent, we have to move on. That law or that power then falls only within the scope of our Second Object as perhaps a subject for comparative study. But, so far as active investigation is concerned, we concentrate upon the unexplained and the latent.
This explains much of our history with regard to certain other movements, other nuclei of the Universal Brotherhood. In the past, for example, members, and particularly leading members, of our Society played an important part in movements for psychic research, spiritualism and kindred lines of investigation into unexplained laws and latent powers; and our President-Founder, Colonel Olcott, gave much attention to those experiments in hypnotism which led up to modern investigations into the unconscious and the foundation of much modern clinical psychology. But today our members are a good deal less concerned with these things; for “psychic” capacities in an increasing number of people are no longer latent but coming into activity, and the laws governing those capacities are being increasingly explained. It is thus very right that the Society should have moved on. To spend time investigating unexplained laws of Nature and powers patent in man would, for Theosophists, be to mark time, to waste energy on work that is proper to other organizations and to be essentially untrue of our Third Object which ever summons us on to the investigation of deeper and deeper layers of the unexplained and the latent.
The discoveries that have been made in the “psychic” and psychological worlds have been very valuable; but they will one day be seen as only a preliminary clearing of a small area of territory. Perhaps it often appeals to one’s curiosity, and even to one’s indolence and one’s nostalgia for the past, to repeat the experiments that have made those discoveries available to us and saunter along the old avenues of speculation which they originally opened. But as members of the Theosophical Society we have pledged ourselves, through the acceptance of our Third Object, to another more vigorous and exacting course, and we must move on.
A very rough, bald sketch of the field of our future investigations has been proposed to us in the form of the various available teachings about the “higher planes”. It is thereby proposed to us that the universe consists of a mighty scale of states of consciousness lying between this outer world of the separate and the particular and an inner world of Unity and Universality. Up that scale we have ascended a little way through investigations into human personality conducted along the lines of psychism and psychology and of more or less objective experiment and demonstration. It would seem that we are coming near an end of what can be done along these lines of objective research. Much filling in of detail remains to be done, but the main lines are known, the principal laws have been explained and the human powers relating to them are passing increasingly from latency to patency.
The next step, it would seem, is into a realm of experience that is truly occult, truly esoteric; a realm that is hidden or revealed to us according to our individual growth; a realm that may be known to us simply according to what we are in ourselves and not according to our mastery of some technique, even a technique of using our own personalities in some special way, such as clairvoyance. Occult truths are never hidden from us by anybody. We reveal or conceal them ourselves individually by what we are and what we are not yet. The laws of the occult world are unexplained because they cannot be spoken about in the language of personality. The powers of the occult world are latent because they are powers belonging to the Whole, and not to the part which thinks itself separate from the Whole and from other parts. So the great experiment is proposed to us of moving on from investigation of personality to investigation of a pure individuality beyond personality and then, beyond that Universality.
Many of us have had some little passing experience of psychism, some little glimpse of clairvoyance, a vivid consciousness of the thoughts of another, a sense of “atmosphere”; and these things are interesting and can be useful if they serve to change our values and widen our horizons a little. But there is another sort of experience which sometimes comes to us. It is that experience when well known things take on a new and profound meaning and, through a faculty that is beyond personality, we gain for a moment an inexpressible understanding of a transcendent power and splendour, an almost intolerable richness and fullness of meaning. For a brief space we see the whole world differently. It is still the same world, but it is also another world; for it is now understood in a totally new way and with a new kind of wisdom, a wisdom which we may even call Theosophy, for to us, when it dawns upon us, it certainly seems to be a Godlike wisdom beyond the dull limitations of our humanity.
Then we generally lose focus and go back to our old way of understanding things, but never feeling just quite the same. Sometimes we are troubled by a disturbing sense of contrast and make clumsy efforts at devising reconciliations, efforts doomed to failure since there are not two realities to be reconciled but only one reality to be accepted.
May it not be that it is now into investigation through such experiences as these that our Third Object calls us on? And may not the mode of that investigation lie mainly in relaxing our self-identification with personality and so coming to know of other meanings to be found in the world as well as those meanings which personality projects out into the world from its own tight and narrow centre? Certain it is that our Third Object, like our First, is no limited laboratory affair, but an exacting challenge to us in every moment of everyday life.
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