The Theosophical Forum – August 1945

CARLYLE ON KARMA — Henry T. Edge

The Beginning holds in it the End, and all that leads thereto, as the acorn does the oak and its fortunes. There thou canst begin, the Beginning is for thee, but where, and of what sort, and for whom will the end be? — Carlyle, French Revolution, III, 2

If you stand up a row of dominoes and push the end one, each one strikes the next until the whole row lies flat. That is one idea of Karma, and this kind of Karma has an irreconcilable quarrel with Freewill. But this is not the kind of Karma envisaged by the seer quoted above. For him every act and thought is a seed, which, beginning as a scarce visible speck, may spread to who knows what umbrageousness. Or it is a vibration which thrills forth into all immensities of time and space. Nor is the seer concerned as to whether or not the energy recoils on the original starter; nay, he would seem rather to be the more concerned that it may fall on somebody else. We know that in the long run our deeds recoil on the doer; but do we give sufficient thought to their effect on others? No doubt matters will in the long run be squared up for these others, but does that quiet our conscience or free us from responsibility? Read further in the same place:

The word that is spoken, as we know, flies irrevocable not less, but more, the action that is done. "The gods themselves," sings Pindar, "cannot annihilate the action that is done." No this, once done, is always done, cast forth into endless Time, and, long conspicuous or soon hidden, must verily work and grow forever there, an indestructible new element in the Infinite of Things. Or, indeed what is this Infinite of Things itself, which men name Universe, but an Action, a sum-total of Actions and Activities. The living ready-made sum-total of these three, — which Calculation cannot add, cannot bring on its tablets; yet the sum, we say, is wntten visible: All that has been done, All that is doing, All that will be done! Understand it well, the Thing thou beholdest, that Thing is an Action, the product and expression of exerted Force: the All of Things is an infinite conjugation of the verb To do.

"An indestructible element"; man then is creator, one of the architectones of the universe; as traditional Wisdom assures us he is — by heritage. Great is his responsibility, great his power — for good, for ill. He can create little universes, sand-built; until they are swept away by the Laws of Nature or the Will of God — names for the working of other and better architectones, higher in the scale than mere man, nearer the throne of the Real, the True.

The Universe "an Action, a sum-total of Actions." And Karma, we say, means Action. Well, the Universe is doubtless Spirit energizing Matter, and Matter ensouled by Spirit and providing vehicles for Spirit's manifestation. But are we not also told that the communion of Spirit and Matter generates Action? Or is the idea changed if we choose to say Fohat or Cosmic Vitality? Technical terms are necessary, but, like other coinage or fiscal paper, liable to depreciation; so it refreshes the mind to have our cherished ideas expressed in other language. Man, in this case, is Action and a sum of Actions. No doubt some higher stereoscopic vision could present to our illumined eye man as a whole; but for the present we have to view him in sections ('aspects'). So he is now a string of Principles and anon a many-clothed Monad; give him another turn and we may see him as a bundle of actions. When anything ceases to act, it ceases to be.

"The sum, we say, is written visible." In the Astral Light? By the Lipikas, the Recording Angel? To each his word; the idea remains. We proclaim our doctrine of the divinity of man, but it is hard to shake off our leading-strings, to stop wondering what outside powers are going to do to us, whether of Saturn in the tenth or of a Karma that, like God, "moves in a mysterious way its wonders to perform." We fear the loss of our freewill and do not know what to do with what we've got.

It is a relief to hear our cherished beliefs from the mouth of a great thinker unfettered by formulas and whether overshadowed and inspired by some august and invisible Presence or simply from his own Higher Self.


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE