From The Theosophist - November 1996


Mary Anderson

THEOSOPHY is nowhere mentioned in the Three Objects of the Theosophical Society. It has of course been stated that the Society ‘was founded to assist in showing to men that such a thing as Theosophy exists’.
(The Key to Theosophy, page 57).

Any attempt to interpret the Three Objects should be undertaken in the light of Theosophy. Yet nowhere is there a final, definite statement of what Theosophy is, though many definitions have been attempted which are satisfactory to a limited extent. A useful way to approach the meaning of any term is to look at its etymology. As we all know, the term ‘Theosophy’ is derived from two Greeks words, theos and sophia, meaning a god and Wisdom. It is often therefore referred to as ‘Divine Wisdom’.

What does ‘divine’ imply? We might say it means belonging to a realm beyond that of the mundane world we know and our day-to-day experience. So it is, on the face of it, different from our everyday world and life. Thus we may approach some understanding of what ‘divine’ implies if we negate the characteristics of what is mundane. That world and that experience being, let us say, visible, tangible and so on — that is, perceptible to the senses — then what is divine might be said to be invisible and intangible. The world we normally know being to some extent understandable to us, the realm of the divine will be beyond our normal understanding. We see only the surface of material things. Even if we dissect them, we do not see into the living atoms of which they are composed. Thus our knowledge of them is external and superficial. That which is divine, on the other hand, is somehow internal and profound.

So what is divine would be, from our point of view, invisible, intangible, inconceivable and of great depth. How is one to define such a concept, except in negative terms? Even then, our definition is imperfect.

When we go into the meaning of ‘wisdom’, we find ourselves faced with a similar predicament. Wisdom has always been contrasted with knowledge. Knowledge belongs to the domain of our everyday mind, kama-manas, the logical and at the same time, egocentric mind we use — and we must use, as we have no other — to go about our daily business. Knowledge is dualistic and separative: It tends to claim that, to the extent an object has certain characteristics, it cannot have the opposite characteristics. Knowledge sees the differences between things and qualifies them accordingly. If something is bad, it is not good. There is of course room for relativity, in that something in becoming better becomes less bad! Knowledge is separative in another way. It is composed of bits of information which admittedly may fit together. The more bits of information we have, the more knowledge we have. Moreover, knowledge belongs only to the mind. It is not dependent on the heart. A person can possess vast knowledge and be a monster of selfishness.

Again, wisdom shows the opposite characteristics. It goes beyond the logical mind. It belongs to what has been called buddhi-manas, the intelligence which is unselfish and impersonal and therefore includes universal love. It is therefore unitive rather than dualistic or separative, seeing similarities rather than differences. It does not condemn or show favour, for it does not perceive things as exclusively good or bad. Wisdom is not composed of bits. Any new insights tend to fit in and unite with previous insights, which may then become deeper. Wisdom is inseparable from loving kindness and cannot lead to any cruel actions or thoughts.

Seen thus, Theosophy as Divine Wisdom implies the deeper aspects of things, beyond appearances, beyond division and personal concerns. No wonder we cannot define it conclusively. This does not mean it has nothing to do with daily life. If, inwardly, all is one — which is the fundamental principle of theosophical teachings and the basis of a theosophical life — daily life is not or should not be separate from that deep, inner, Divine Wisdom but should on the contrary express it.

The Three Objects, taken together, are indeed one: Oneness of humanity, of the quest for understanding and of the flowering of that inner nature which is at once man’s nature and Nature itself and which is at once Being and Knowing.

If we look at the Objects of the Society in the light of Theosophy, as we have attempted to explain them from a certain point of view, we shall go deeply into them. We shall go beyond the words and the apparent meaning of the Objects which might strike us at first sight. We shall see that Theosophy is the deeper aspect of each of the Objects. At the same time, the Objects constitute in themselves suggestions as to how that deeper aspect can be put into practice in daily life.

The First Object is ‘ to form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour’.

The deeper aspect of this Object, the profound truth behind it, is the universal brotherhood of humanity — which is not something to be created by the Society but is already a fact in Nature. All human beings, whatever may be their race, beliefs, social class and other distinguishing characteristics, are in a sense brothers and sisters; they belong to the same family; they are related because they stem from the same parents. All human beings should be seen as emanating from the same source and therefore as related to each other.

The fact is to be expressed by the TS (or rather its members) in the world in which we live by the creation of an upâdhi, a vehicle or a form through which that inherent relationship of brotherhood can be expressed in the outer world. This vehicle is a nucleus, that is, a centre from which an organism originates. It is not to be expected that instantaneously the TS or any other body or persons can make universal brotherhood a reality on our plane of being as it is at the inner, deeper level. We cannot wave a wand and — hey presto! — a beautiful garden springs up from nowhere. We must first plant seeds. A seed is an example of a nucleus out of which and around which something can grow. Growth takes place from within outwards.

Thus the Society should constitute a nucleus of living relationship among its members around which the spirit of brotherhood — the genuine family spirit — may spread abroad. Of course it is not always easy to live harmoniously with one’s next of kin. Much infighting goes on in the best of families. It is easier to feel love for humanity as an abstraction than for our next of kin, our neighbours and even — at times — our friends, let alone the person taking up too much room on the seat next to us in the bus! We need a training ground to realize our weakness, to confront the difficulties of relationship in daily life, recognize them and live with them or overcome them. There is no panacea to overcome such difficulties, but the very concept of Oneness tells us we have no right to reject anyone, however stupid or wrong-headed that person may seem.

So the Society itself and, indeed each Lodge should form such a nucleus in which brotherhood — positive relationship — is fostered and from which it can spread out.

The Second Object is ‘ to encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy and Science’.

If we presume that the real meaning of this Object lies deeper than its wording may suggest on a first reading, we shall realize that more is meant than their mere academic study, however interesting and useful.

Then comparative religion will not mean comparing religious, beliefs, rituals and customs in order to point out differences, after the manner of anthropologists, who should at least be scientifically objective. Still less will it mean investigating different religions in order to glorify one over the others. Rather will it mean seeking, in a spirit of reverence, for what lies behind different religions, that is, their esoteric or hidden side and in many cases their origin, as far as this can be known. Most religions have certain things in common, such as reverence for what is considered sacred, a code of conduct which excludes selfishness etc. And if we presume that the universe not only evolved from within (from a nucleus) but is also in some manner guided from within, surely different religions must have the same noble origin, however man may have defiled and perverted that original divine impulse.

Encouraging the study of philosophy might mean not only retracing the thoughts of the great philosophers of East and West whose theories are accessible to us but also ourselves extending ever further the frontiers of the knowledge which man can acquire during his quest out of a love of wisdom. At the same time, that quest should not go to one’s head and make us lose balance and forsake common sense. Similarly, the study of science should be not only admirably objective, as true science is, in raising question after question, but should also be more and more penetrating. Studied in this way, both philosophy and science leave their own ground and enter the province of religion. But it is perhaps precisely this deeper or esoteric aspect — however objectionable academically! — which constitutes the Second Object’s real purpose.

Science deals with the physical world around us, philosophy with the world of mind and the concepts of which it is capable and religion with that which is beyond both and beyond us (but for which we perhaps have awe and reverence and to which we may at times feel very close). Yet do not the worlds of matter, of great concepts and of that which is beyond them and eludes man’s grasp constitute one world? We are all capable of action, of thought and of something which transcends both. These are aspects of our being. And thus, too, might not these realms of study be seen as different aspects of man’s search for understanding? They were so seen in the days before our age of extreme specialization (which is certainly also a necessary stage).

The subtitle of The Secret Doctrine is ‘ the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy’. So behind the Second Object, as behind the First, we find oneness — oneness in the domain of man’s material, intellectual and spiritual enquiry.

The Third Object is ‘to investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.’ Can unexplained laws of Nature be explained more than superficially? Are there not inexplicable laws of Nature, which cannot be formulated, though they may be understood at a deeper level, with higher faculties — powers still latent in man? Such powers are not merely psychic powers, which are at the level of our emotions and everyday wishing and thinking (kama-manas).

If the Third Object is to be seen in the light of Theosophy, the Divine Wisdom, we must consider it at the level of that Divine Wisdom in man and in Nature. Thus the powers latent in man would refer to man’s nature at the level of buddhi-manas, the enlightened mind, the pure mind, the mind which is no longer personal, the realm of consciousness where love and wisdom are one. It is their inseparable power which is to be investigated. This is an investigation of the unexplained laws of Nature — unexplained by and inexplicable to the everyday mind still attached to its personal desires: kama-manas.

If the Three Objects are interpreted in the light of Theosophy, they will not be seen superficially but will be understood, studied and practised at a deeper level. Instead of seeking to improve their wording, we shall at last try to put them into practice.

Each of them points to Oneness:

         Oneness of humanity in its origin and inmost being ( and, by extension, of all creatures, man being their culmination).

 Oneness of the quest for understanding, by which man seeks, perhaps unconsciously, to return to his origin in Oneness; Theosophy as the Divine Wisdom, the Ancient Wisdom (before beginning and without end), the Secret Doctrine, secret because our conscious minds cannot totally conceive of and in any case express it. Yet it constantly draws us on.

Oneness of man’s inmost nature and his perception of Nature’s hidden laws, possible only when his higher powers of wisdom are unfolded, since being (what he is) and understanding (the deeper aspect of Nature, which is also his nature) are one.

The Three Objects, taken together, are indeed one: Oneness of humanity, of the quest for understanding and of the flowering of that inner nature which is at once man’s nature and Nature itself and which is at once Being and Knowing. The Three Objects point to possible avenues along which to express Theosophy more and more by realization of Oneness, by a holistic study in depth and by opening ourselves to our higher nature and the higher Nature of all.

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