THEOSOPHY, Vol. 43, No. 8, June, 1955
(Pages 347-350; Size: 13K)


[Part 23 of a 29-part series]

THE word objective, especially in its psychological and philosophical connotations, very much resembles a nest of Chinese boxes. For instance, one might think that to be objective means to limit one's concern to sense data; Webster takes this meaning into account, remarking that one correct definition of objective is "perceptible to the senses or derived from sense perception; as objective data." However, this is not a preferred use of the term, even in Webster, and it is difficult not to be aware of the fact that "objectivity" has represented, for many devoted to the spirit of scientific method, the attempt to discipline one's own emotions in order to see facts clearly. As Arthur Morgan has recently written, in explanation of the scientific ideal: "Few factors tend more to cloud judgment than habits of living that are inconsistent with the conclusions of critical, objective inquiry."

But it might easily seem that the objective person restricts his concerns to the material plane, and hence to matters pertaining to his own "lower nature," for to devotees of science, to be objective signifies sacrificing one's own biases in the impersonal quest for truth. In other words, one tries to abstract his "lower nature" from a situation in order to make fair appraisal, and allows the higher self to enter into the deliberations, and regards himself as if he were but an impersonal "object."

Impersonality paradoxically requires a focusing of the higher Buddhi-manasic faculties, to use the Sanscrit terminology. Impartial reason and the voice of intuition must be activated in order to enable man to view himself dispassionately.

Webster takes account of these considerations in the following definition:

Objective. Emphasizing or expressing the nature of reality as it is apart from self-consciousness; treating events or phenomena as external rather than as affected by one's reflections or feelings; expressing facts without distortion from one's personal feelings or prejudice.
We thus discover that respect for objectivity is characteristic -- and characteristically good -- in our present culture. A popular novel of the moment, for instance, contains this sentence, representing the ethical transformation of one of the leading characters who finally develops a genuine concern for other human beings with whom he is not immediately and personally allied:
Something was happening to him now. He liked the feeling. He was beginning to care what happened to others with an objectivity that allowed him to escape from himself. He couldn't say what had started it. He only knew that he had felt its first sharp impact last night.
Clearly, in Theosophical terms, it is this capacity to stand apart from oneself that is the beginning of true spiritual awareness. Buddha's vision in the forest during his night of torment was a vision compounded of innumerable desires and forces bound hitherto to his own personal nature, but now focused impersonally before the screen of an arhat's vision. Buddha saw desires and attitudes of his own as if they were another's, and thus was able to be completely detached from them. Similarly, the basic intent in psychotherapy is to encourage the patient to bring into "objective" relief various feelings and impressions which have been exerting a detrimental influence on the subconscious mind. Like Buddha's demons, these inhibiting forces are carried upward into the light of reason, where they then assume their correct shapes and colorations.

Since we have already devoted some space in this series [Note: In the 20th article.--Compiler] to what is now called "the science of semantics," it is interesting to note that, in portions of semantic literature, an additional reverse twist is given to the meaning of objectivity. Korzybski, in Science and Sanity, indicates that the tendency to regard something as being objective or factual, when it is simply the result of one of our personal "high order abstractions," leads to vast confusion:

If, through lack of consciousness of abstracting, we identify or confuse words with objects and feelings, or memories and "ideas" with experiences which belong to the un-speakable objective level, we identify higher order abstractions with lower. Since this special type of semantic identification or confusion is extremely general, it deserves a special name. I call it objectification, because it is generally the confusion of words or verbal issues (memories, "ideas") with objective, un-speakable levels, such as objects, or experiences, or feelings. If we objectify, we forget, or we do not remember that words are not the objects or feelings themselves, that the verbal levels are always different from the objective levels. When we identify them, we disregard the inherent differences, and so proper evaluation and full adjustment become impossible.
However, this is special usage for objective, and we find elsewhere in the writings of semanticists an expected concern with developing objectivity. From a semantic point of view, the first and most important step in viewing a thing objectively is realizing and remembering that no matter how fully we describe an object, person, situation, etc., no matter how many characteristics we are able to "abstract," we can never abstract all, can never completely describe. Then we collect all the "facts" we possibly can; from those facts, we draw inferences; we consider the inferences, and then evaluate or make judgments. If we confuse this order (as, for example, basing judgments on description), we have ceased to think objectively.

The following tabulation, from Kenneth S. Keyes' How to Develop Your Thinking Ability, gives a useful break-down of "the tools" of objective thinking:

1. "So far as I know" -- recognizes the non-allness of our description.

2. "Up to a point" -- that most things are not black or white, good or bad, but a mixture.

3. "To me" -- that we are seeing from our own point of view, on the basis of our past experience, and with our particular prejudices and preconceptions.

4. "The WHAT Index" -- that no two things in this world are identical; thing 1 is not thing 2; man 1 is not man 2.

5. "The WHEN Index" -- that everything is constantly changing; Jones (1940) is not necessarily Jones (1950).

6. "The WHERE Index" -- that circumstances alter cases; situations alter reactions, etc.

The student of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine may recall that she there defines Theosophy itself as "a system of objective idealism," while discussing the philosophy of Leibniz in comparison to that of Spinoza. "Esoteric philosophy," she writes, "teaching an objective Idealism -- though it regards the objective Universe and all in it as Maya, temporary illusion -- draws a practical distinction between collective illusion, Mahamaya, from the purely metaphysical stand-point, and the objective relations in it between various conscious Egos so long as this illusion lasts."

In Isis Unveiled we find a similar point made in another connection:

Esoteric philosophers held that everything in nature is but a materialization of spirit. The Eternal First Cause is latent spirit, they said, and matter from the beginning. "In the beginning was the word ... and the word was God." While conceding the idea of such a God to be an unthinkable abstraction to human reason, they claimed that the unerring human instinct grasped it as a deeper reminiscence of something concrete to it though intangible to our physical senses. With the first idea, which emanated from the double-sexed and hitherto-inactive Deity, the first motion was communicated to the whole universe, and the electric thrill was instantaneously felt throughout the boundless space. Spirit begat force, and force matter; and thus the latent deity manifested itself as a creative energy.
Now if it is possible for there to be "something concrete" to the higher perceptive faculties, we can easily see a relationship between esoteric doctrine and the concern of the scientist who fears that it takes a man of considerable stature to be "objective." If objective simply meant that which was measurable or physical, the lower orders of mammalian life would be able to be much more objective than man. But it is subjective accomplishment which enables one to separate fancy and bias from perception of true relationships. Joseph Shipley, in his always provocative Dictionary of Word Origins, summarizes the basic point in the following manner: "Subjective," he writes, "from the grammatical sense, means concerned with the subject, hence with the first person, oneself; objective, from similar usage, means with personal emotions removed."

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


If you satisfy the heart alone, the understanding stands to its arms, and with justice protests: if the understanding alone, the heart is in revolt, and with equal justice refuses to be satisfied. ... Yet again, whence and why this determination to discover truth, irrespective of any certainty that it will prove either pleasant or profitable? A strange quest surely, and a strange conviction that the truth will not disappoint or betray us. ... The miseries of man arose, the story goes, from the eating of the fruit of knowledge. But the peculiar and mysterious fact is that we continue to crave for it, to consume it with eager appetites. 


Next article:
[Personality. Individuality. Imperishable Ego.
Soul. Reincarnation and Karma.
Person. Personage. Persona.
Christian Theology. Dualism. Original Sin.
Charity. Personal Exertion For Others.
Man and His Essential Nature.
Levels, Divisions and Attributes of the Self.
Excerpts From Many Writers and H.P.B..
Metempsychosis. Higher Ego. Theosophical Dualism.]
[Part 24 of a 29-part series]

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