By Julian Ochoa
The Objects of the Theosophical Society (Adyar) are as follows:
1. To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
2. To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy and science.
3. To investigate unexplained laws of Nature and the powers latent in man.
One may think that the first object is a topic to be overlooked, as it is unimportant in this day and age, we feel we have achieved the idea of brotherhood through globalisation, technology and social media; We might tell ourselves I am a financial member of the theosophical society which professes universal brotherhood, therefore I don’t have to think about what the first object tells us about the deeper aspects of human relationships.
Historically the first object was not part of the first draft of objects made on the foundation day in 1875 in New York, perhaps time and location may reveal one reason for that, the American civil war had only just passed, systemic racism was still very strong, and all the foundation members were Americans of European descent, even though universal brotherhood was not mentioned in the first object at that particular time, words of the same manner to those of our current first object were inserted in the preamble to the original by laws of the society, for those who wanted to join. It cannot be said that the first members were not aware of racial, gender and class discrimination. Blavatsky by that time had travelled extensively around the world and had seen how the different colonial powers treated people, she herself experienced poverty and gender discrimination for being a woman traveller and adventurer.
13 years after the foundation of the Theosophical Society, Blavatsky published in 1888 the secret doctrine, her magnum opus, the book which would give insights into the occult origins of man and his place in the universe. From the beginning The secret doctrine itself was clear to explain in the three fundamental propositions the idea that all souls emanate from the one true source, it also brought to light the concept of the oneness of all beings in this universe. The third principle remarks that all souls exist as part of the universal oversoul and all go through the universal cycle of death and rebirth, karma and reincarnation those laws that lead us all on the path of regeneration and reintegration back to the great oversoul.
When the TS headquarters were moved to India as directed by HPBs masters, it was with the intention of making the society a universal brotherhood. They explained that the TS in America would not have survived the political spirit of the locals, the society would have dissipated and forgotten as other occult groups that have come and gone. The spirit of respect and tolerance for all religious and philosophical ideas by the people of India was seen by the adepts a perfect reason to establish the headquarters in India.
Throughout the early years of the society the objects underwent many changes and it was when the headquarters was established in India that the first object was introduced. The first object was drafted as a way to indicate that the society and its teachings was open to all, not just the few. The only true requirement was and still is a desire for truth and knowledge.
John Algeo highlighted the following passages regarding the first object in Quest magazine :
“The inner founders of the Society were always clear on this issue. In one of his earliest letters to A. P. Sinnett (no. 5), the teacher known as KH wrote: “The term ‘Universal Brotherhood’ is no idle phrase. Humanity in the mass has a paramount claim upon us. . . . It is the only secure foundation for universal morality . . . and it is the aspiration of the true adept.” And again (letter no. 12) he wrote, “The Chiefs want a ‘Brotherhood of Humanity,’ a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world and arrest the attention of the highest minds.” They emphatically did not want a “School of Magick” (letter no. 11) and in general dismissed the importance and value of all psychic phenomena.”
To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour.
The first object was ground breaking for its time, especially because it was created during the time of British India, a place where the British had been ruling as colonial masters for over a century. The establishment of the Society in India unsettled the British, the Christian missionaries and some local religious authorities, more particularly because its main founder was a Russian woman. What more can you ask, a Russian woman with an American passport talking about universal brotherhood.
Many great women have joined the society, but in the early days a very remarkable woman from Britain joined the society and in 1893 travelled to india to do the work of the Theosophical Society. Annie Besant was Remarkable because before joining the society she participated in the British labour movement, was involved with the fabians and was a suffraget. If people thought Blavatsky was stirring things, Annie Besant helped solidify the society globally, and in India she completed many philanthropic projects on behalf of the society as a movement and institution and more importantly she participated in the independence movement of India from British rule.
The first object I would say has always been the main drive of the society since the beginning. The adepts behind Blavatsky wanted a society that would dispel the philosophical materialism at the time but more than that the plan was to shed light on the ancient truths, they foresaw great changes were coming for humanity, therefore books like the secret doctrine needed to be published, spaces like the TS had to be created to allow seekers of truth to find a refuge to study and to meet kindred spirits.
In the present, humanity is living in difficult conditions, we thought globalisation had united us in joy, but instead it created more social divisions, more hatred, discrimination, greed etcetera. Having said that, our collective aloofness and amnesia was soon shaken with the reality of climate change, and the pandemic which is still not under control. In more modest countries we forgot that there are wars, famines, and sufferings of all kinds in many parts of our world. The pandemic has given us a little bit of a shake up to let us know that we are not here on our own, but that we are participant and enablers of this current global system that is enslaving everyone, we are not politicians or billionaires but we are supporting directly or indirectly a system that is creating a global catastrophe.
As theosophists our duty in the world is not just to show up to meetings, or to give talks, but to embody the teachings we so much profess, to live them to the core. Don’t let the society be a coffee club or just a place to study a book, but a place where we practice brotherhood and kindness. In my opinion the three objects are like the 3 degrees of freemasonry, you have to go through them one by one, you have to experience them step by step, internalise each one, meditate on each object and contemplate its many meanings and dimensions. Unlike in masonry you can jump to focusing on the second and third objects, but the truth is that they won’t make sense without working on the first object. To focus on the second and third objects whilst ignoring the first object is like building a statute of marble but with feet of clay, soon the feet will crumble, and the statue will fall and break.
As theosophists we need to act with urgency and do away with what Krishnamurti called the crutches, the things that hold us down, all the divisions and labels we create to build walls between us. We need to do away with gender discrimination, racism, classism, political divisions, intellectualism, judgementalism and narcissism.
Freedom of thought and freedom speech are crucial in our society we can’t continue fighting over who is right or wrong… all these conflicts are what is holding us from growing. I invite all theosophists not only to promote theosophy but to embody theosophy, to internalise the theosophic teachings and live by example practicing ideas such as the first object of true universal brotherhood.
Ochoa J. Fourth Online Gathering of Young Theosophists, February 28 2021.