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The Law Of Causality (karma)








Karma is the Law of the Universe, the expression of divine Will. Its
seemingly essential attributes are Justice and Love; it neither
punishes nor rewards, but adjusts things, restores disturbed balance
and harmony, brings back evolving souls to the right path and teaches
them Law.

When a man acts against the Law, he is like a swimmer, struggling
against the current of a rapid river; his strength fails, and he is
borne away.

So does God bear away, in spite of all their efforts, those who,
whether ignorantly or consciously, fight against the Law, for it is
His love that wills evolution, i.e., the making human beings divine;
so he brings them back to the path, in spite of themselves, every time
they wander astray.

"God is patient because He is eternal," it has been said. The sentence
is incomplete and must be changed, since it attributes to Divinity a
vindictive nature. The Law is patient because it is perfect in Wisdom,
Power, and Love.

This Law is the divine Will which moves all things and vibrates
everywhere; it is the music of the spheres, the song of glory and
harmony, which murmurs in the heart like the rippling of a waterfall,
the chant of life and joy that eternally triumphs in its never-ending
creation of beings, who, after revolving for a moment in the universe,
have become perfect.

Its glorious strains resound in the heart of man, when the soul has
found peace in the Law, and we are told that, when once heard, its
divine accents continue for ever, like an ineffable whisper which
brings us back to hope and faith, when we are sunk in the depths of
despair.

God limited himself in order to become incarnate in the Universe: He
is the Soul of the world. His will is exerted everywhere, it finds its
reflection in every creature; and man, a portion of divinity in
course of evolution, possesses a germ of will that is infinite in its
essence, and consequently capable of limitless development; God
respects this will in His creatures, and submits to violence, in order
to teach them His will, which is supreme Love. Like a stone that falls
into a tranquil lake, a human action creates, all round, concentric
ripples which continue to the very shores or limits of the Universe;
then the wave is thrown back upon itself, returns to its
starting-point, and the man who began the first movement receives a
recoil exactly equivalent to the original impetus. Reaction is equal
to action; obstacles on the way may delay its return or break up its
energy, but the time comes when the fractions return to the centre
that generates the disturbance, which thus receives from the Law a
perfectly just retribution.

The principal element in actions is thought. Every thought is a form
in a state of vibration--a ray of intelligence which unites itself
with subtle matter[29] and forms a being, of which this matter is the
body, and thought, the soul. This being, often called a
"thought-form," possesses form, duration, and strength that bear a
strict relation to the energy of the thought that created it; if it
embodies a soul of hatred, it will react on the man who harbours this
thought, and on all who come into contact with him, as a leaven of
destruction, but if it is guided by love it will be, as it were, the
incarnation of some beneficent power.

In certain cases its action is expressed visibly and rapidly; for
instance, a venomous thought may[30] cause the death of the person
against whom it is directed--this is one aspect of the "evil eye"--as
also it may[31] return to its starting-point and kill the one who
generated it, by the recoil. Every mental projection of a criminal
nature, however, by no means necessarily reaches the object aimed at;
a sorcerer, for instance, could no more injure one who was positive,
consciously and willingly good, than he could cause a grain of corn to
sprout on a block of granite; favourable soil is needed to enable the
seed of evil to take root in a man's heart; otherwise, the evil
recoils with its full force upon the one who sent it forth and who is
an irresistible magnet, for he is its very "life-centre."

Thoughts cling to their creator and attract towards this latter those
of a similar nature floating about in the invisible world, for they
instinctively come to vitalise and invigorate themselves by contact
with him; they radiate around him a contagious atmosphere of good or
evil, and when they have left him, hover about, at the caprice of the
various currents, impelling those they touch towards the goal to which
they are making. They even recoil on the visible form of their
generator; it is for this reason that physical is closely connected
with moral well-being, and most of our diseases are nothing else than
the outer expression of the hidden leaven of passion. When the action
of this latter is sudden and powerful, diseases may be the immediate
consequence thereof; blinded by materialism, certain doctors seldom
acknowledge their real cause; and yet instances of hair turning white
in a single night are too numerous to be refuted, congestion of the
brain brought on by a fit of anger, jaundice and other grave maladies
caused by grief and trouble, are to be met with continually.

When the mental forces which disturb the physical organs meet with
obstacles which prevent their immediate outlet, they accumulate, like
the electric fluid in a condenser, until an unexpected contact
produces a discharge; this condensation often persists for a whole
life in a latent condition, and is preserved intact for a future
incarnation; this is the cause of original vices, which, incorporated
in the etheric double, react upon the organic texture of the body.
This also explains why each individual possesses an ensemble of
pathological predispositions often radically different from those
heredity should have bequeathed to him; it is also, to some extent,
the key to physiognomy, for every single feature bears either the
stamp of our passions or the halo of our virtues.

Thought creates lasting bonds between human beings; love and hatred
enchain certain individuals to one another for a whole series of
incarnations; many a victim of the past is to be found again in those
unnatural sons who send a thrill of horror through society when it
hears of some heinous crime--they have become the torturers of their
former oppressors. In other cases, it is love which attracts and
unites in renewed affection those who formerly loved one another--they
return to earth as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands or
wives.

But if we are the slaves of the past, if fate compels us to reap what
we have sown, we yet have the future in our hands, for we can tear up
the weeds, and in their place sow useful plants. Just as, by means of
physical hygiene, we can change within a few years the nature of the
constituents that make up our bodies, so also, by a process of moral
hygiene, we can purify our passions and then turn their strength in
the direction of good. According as we will, so do we actually become,
good or bad; every man who has taken his evolution in hand notices
this rapid transformation of his personality, and sees his successive
"egos" rise step by step, so to speak, throughout his whole life.

Speaking generally, the first part of life is the expression of the
distant past--of former lives--the second is a mixture of the past and
of the energies of the present incarnation; the end of life is nothing
but a sinking into an ever-deepening rut for those who crystallise in
only one direction; the force of habit sets up its reign, and man
finds himself bound by the chains he himself has forged. This is the
reason an old man does not like the present times; he has stopped
whilst time has advanced, and he is now being carried along like the
flotsam and jetsam of a wreck; the very tastes and habits of his
contemporaries violently clashing with his beloved past. Speak not to
him of progress or evolution, he has brought himself into a state of
complete immobility, and he will discover no favourable field of
action nor will he acquire real energy until he has drunk of the
waters of Lethe in a rest-giving Hereafter and a new body supplies his
will with an instrument having the obedient suppleness of youth.

H. P. Blavatsky, in the Secret Doctrine, has well described this
progressive enmeshing of man in the net he himself is weaving.

"Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from
birth to death, every man is weaving, thread by thread, around
himself, as a spider his web; and this destiny is guided either by the
heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our
more intimate astral or inner man, who is but too often the evil
genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the
outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning
of the invisible affray the stern and implacable Law of Compensation
steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations
of the fight. When the last strand is woven, the man is seemingly
enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself
completely under the empire of this self-made destiny...."

She adds shortly afterwards:

"An Occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or
cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma-Nemesis, he will
teach that nevertheless it guards the good and watches over them in
this as in future lives; and that it punishes the evil-doer, aye, even
to his seventh rebirth, so long, in short, as the effect of his having
thrown into perturbation even the smallest atom in the Infinite World
of harmony, has not been finally readjusted. For the only decree of
Karma--an eternal and immutable decree--is absolute Harmony in the
world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore,
Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we who reward or punish
ourselves, according to whether we work with, through, and along with
nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or--break
them.

"Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable, were men to work in union
and harmony instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those
ways--which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark
and intricate, while another sees in them the action of blind
Fatalism, and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to
guide them--would surely disappear, if we would but attribute all
these to their correct cause....

"We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the
riddle of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great
Sphinx of devouring us. But verily, there is not an accident in our
lives, not a mis-shapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced
back to our own doings in this or in another life...."

On the same subject, Mrs. Sinnett says in The Purpose of Theosophy:

"Every individual is making Karma either good or bad in every action
and thought of his daily round, and is at the same time working out in
this life the Karma brought about by the acts and desires of the last.
When we see people afflicted by congenital ailments, it may be safely
assumed that these ailments are the inevitable results of causes
started by the same in a previous birth. It may be argued that, as
these afflictions are hereditary, they can have nothing to do with a
past incarnation; but it must be remembered that the ego, the real
man, the individuality, has no spiritual origin in the parentage by
which it is re-embodied, but is drawn by the affinities which its
previous mode of life attracted round it into the current that carries
it, when the time comes for re-birth, to the home best fitted for the
development of those tendencies....

"This doctrine of Karma, when properly understood, is well calculated
to guide and assist those who realise its truth to a higher and better
mode of life; for it must not be forgotten that not only our actions,
but our thoughts also, are most assuredly followed by a crowd of
circumstances that will influence for good or for evil our own future;
and, what is still more important, the future of many of our
fellow-creatures. If sins of omission and commission could in any case
be only self-regarding, the effect on the sinner's Karma would be a
matter of minor consequence. The fact that every thought and act
through life carries with it, for good or evil, a corresponding
influence on the members of the human family renders a strict sense of
justice, morality, and unselfishness so necessary to future happiness
and progress. A crime once committed, an evil thought sent out from
the mind, are past recall--no amount of repentance can wipe out their
results on the future....

"Repentance, if sincere, will deter a man from repeating errors; it
cannot save him or others from the effects of those already produced,
which will most unerringly overtake him either in this life or in the
next rebirth."

We will also quote a few lines from E. D. Walker in Reincarnation:

"Briefly, the doctrine of Karma is that we have made ourselves what we
are by former actions, and are building our future eternity by present
actions. There is no destiny but what we ourselves determine. There is
no salvation or condemnation except what we ourselves bring about....
Because it offers no shelter for culpable actions and necessitates a
sterling manliness, it is less welcome to weak natures than the easy
religious tenets of vicarious atonement, intercessions, forgiveness,
and death-bed conversions....

"In the domain of eternal justice, the offence and the punishment are
inseparably connected as the same event, because there is no real
distinction between the action and its outcome.

"It is Karma, or our old acts, that bring us back into earthly life.
The spirit's abode changes according to its Karma, and this Karma
forbids any long continuance in one condition, because it is always
changing. So long as action is governed by material and selfish
motives, just so long must the effect of that action be manifested in
physical rebirths. Only the perfectly selfless man can elude the
gravitation of material life. Few have attained this, but it is the
goal of mankind."

The danger of a too brief explanation of the law of Causality consists
in the possibility of being imperfectly understood, and consequently
of favouring the doctrine of fatalism.

"Why act at all, the objection will be urged, if everything is
foreseen by the Law? Why stretch out a hand to the man who falls into
the water before our very eyes? Is not the Law strong enough to save
him, if he is not to die; and if he is, have we any right to
interfere?...

"Such reasoning arises from ignorance and egoism.

"Yes, the law is powerful enough to prevent the man from drowning, and
also to prevent the possibility of his being saved by some passer-by,
who has been moved to pity by the sight; to doubt this were to doubt
the power of God. In the work of evolution, however, God does more
than supply man with means of developing his intelligence; in order to
enrich his heart, he offers him opportunities of sacrificing himself.
Again, the innumerable problems set by duty are far from being solved
for us; with difficulty can we distinguish a crime from a noble
action; very often we do wrong, thinking we are doing right, and it
not unfrequently happens that good results from our evil deeds; this
is why God sends us experiences which are to teach us our duty.

"The soul learns not only during its incarnations, but even more after
leaving the body,[32] for life after death is largely spent in
examining the consequences of deeds performed during life on earth.

"Whenever, then, an opportunity for action offers itself, let us
follow the impulse of the heart, the cry of duty, and not the sophisms
of the lower nature, the selfish "ego," the cold brain, which knows
neither compassion nor devotion. Do your duty, whatever happens, says
the Law, i.e., do not allege, as your excuse for being selfish, that
God, if He thinks it best, will help your brother in his trouble; why
do you not fling yourself into the fire, with the thought that, if
your hour has not yet come, God will prevent the flames from burning
you? Does not the man, who commits suicide, himself push forward the
hand on the dial of life, setting it at the fatal hour?

"The threads of karmic action are so wonderfully interwoven, and God,
in order to hasten evolution, makes such marvellous use of human
forces, both good and bad, that the first few glances cast at the
melee of events are calculated to trouble the mind rather than
reveal to it the marvels of adjustment effected by divine Wisdom, but
no sooner does one succeed in unravelling some of the entanglements of
the karmic forces, and catching a glimpse of the harmony resulting
from their surprising co-operation, than the mind is lost in amaze.
Then, one understands how the murderer is only an instrument whose
passions are used by God in carrying out the karmic decree which
condemned the victim long before the crime was committed; then, too,
one knows that capital punishment is a legal crime of which divine
Justice makes use--yes, a crime, for none but God can judge; every
being has a right to live, and does live, until God condemns him.

"But man, by making himself, even ignorantly, the instrument of Karma,
acts against the universal law, and is preparing for himself that
future suffering which results from every attack made on the harmony
of the whole."[33]

On the other hand, Destiny is not an immutable mass of forces; will
can destroy what it has created, that is a question of time or energy;
and when these are unable, within a given period, to bring about the
total destruction of a barrier belonging to the past, none the less
does this barrier lessen day by day, for the "resultant" of this
system of opposing forces changes its direction every moment, and the
final shock, when it cannot be avoided, is always diminished to a
greater or less degree.

In the case of those who have attained to a perfect reading of the
past, their knowledge of the hostile forces is complete, and the
neutralisation of these forces immensely facilitated. They can seek
out, in this world or in the next, those they wronged in the past, and
thus repair the harm done; they can see the source of those thoughts
of hatred that are sent against them, and destroy them by the
intervention of love;[34] they can find out the weak points of their
personal armour and strengthen them: it is this that in theosophical
language is called the burning of Karma in the fire of "Wisdom."

None the less, there are two points in the law of Causality, which
appear to favour the idea of fatalism, though in reality, they are
merely corollaries of Karma. According to the first, every force is
fatal, in the sense that, if left to itself, it is indestructible.
This is not fatality, for the force can be modified by meeting with
forces differing in character, and if no such encounter takes place,
it finally unites with the cosmic Law, or else is broken to pieces
upon it, according as it moves with evolution or against it.[35] Only
in one sense, then, is it fatal; it cannot be destroyed save by an
opposing force of the same momentum. For instance, in order to
annihilate an obstructive force, created in the past, the soul must
expend an amount of energy that is equal and opposite to that force;
it meanwhile cannot devote itself to any other work, thus causing, in
one sense, a useless production of energy; in other words, evolution
will suffer delay,[36] but, we must repeat, that is not fatality.

Now to the second point.

Thought, by repetition, gains ever-increasing energy, and when the
forces which thoughts accumulate have become as powerful as those of
the will of the Ego which created them, a final addition of
energy--another thought--alone is needed for the will to be overcome
and the heavier scale of the balance to incline; then the thought is
fatally realised in the action. But so long as dynamic equilibrium has
not been reached, the will remains master, although its power is ever
diminishing, in proportion as the difference in the forces becomes
smaller. When equilibrium is reached, the will is neutralised; it
becomes powerless, and feels that a fall is only a question of
moments, and, with a fresh call of energy, the thought is fatally
realised on the physical plane; the hour of freedom has gone and the
fatal moment arrived. Like some solution that has reached saturation
point, obedient to the last impulse, this thought crystallises into an
act.

Many a criminal thus meets, in a single moment, the fatality he has
created in the course of several incarnations; he no longer sees
anything, his reason disappears; in a condition of mental darkness
his arm is raised, and, impelled by a blind force, he strikes
automatically. "What have I done?" he immediately exclaims in horror.
"What demon is this that has taken possession of me?"

Then only is the crime perpetrated, without there being time for the
will to be consulted, without the "voice of conscience" having been
invited to speak. The whole fatality of automatism is in the deed,
which has been carried through without the man suspecting or being
conscious of it; his physical machine has been the blind instrument of
the force of evil he has himself slowly accumulated throughout the
ages. But let there be no mistake; every time a man, who is tempted,
has time to think, even in fleeting fashion, of the moral value of the
impulse which is driving him onward, he has power to resist; and if he
yields to this impulse, the entire responsibility of this final lapse
is added on to that incurred by past thoughts.

Among the victims of these actions that have become fatal are often to
be found those who are near the stage of initiation, for before being
exposed to the dangers of the bewildering "Path," which bridges the
abyss--the abyss which separates the worlds of unity from the illusory
and transitory regions of the Universe--they are submitted to the most
careful tests.

There may even be found souls that tread this path,[37] bearing within
themselves[38] some old surviving residue which has not yet been
finally thrown into the physical plane, and must consequently appear
for the last time before falling away and disappearing for ever.[39]
Mankind, incapable of seeing the man--the divine fragment gloriously
blossoming forth in these beings--often halts before these dark spots
in the vesture of the great soul, these excreta flung off from the
"centre," belonging to the refuse of the vehicle, not to the soul, and
in its blindness pretends to see, in its folly to judge, loftily
condemning the sins of a brother more evolved than itself!

The future will bring men greater wisdom, and teach them the greatness
of their error.[40]

At the conclusion of this important chapter, let us repeat that
Karma--divine Will in action--is Love as well as justice, Wisdom as
well as Power, and no one ought to dread it. If at times it uses us
roughly and always brings us back to the strait way when folly leads
us astray, it is only measuring its strength against our weakness, its
delicate scales balance the load according to our strength, and when,
in times of great anguish or terrible crisis, man is on the point of
giving way, it suddenly lifts the weight, leaves the soul a moment's
respite, and only when it has recovered breath is the burden replaced.
The righteous Will of God is always upon us, filling our hearts with
its might; His Love is ever about us, enabling us to grow and expand,
even through the suffering he sends, for it is ourselves who have
created this suffering.





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