The Theosophical Forum – September 1936


[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]

There is an aspect of human nature — not its best — that loves above everything to shift the responsibility of its actions to someone else. But this aspect is only one of the many that go to make up human nature — some good, some bad, and some indifferent — and human nature in toto is only one small portion of that compound entity called "man." Even as the seven-fold man ranges from the divine, in which he is rooted, to the physical vehicle through which he expresses himself on this earth, so too that particular aspect of him, his human nature, has its ranges of expression, sometimes appearing to be little more than a self-conscious animal, at other times giving glimpses of those finer qualities which prove its strait relation with the spiritual elements in man's makeup and which link him to godlike beings. Because of this strait relationship, whatever the temptation to put the blame on others, there has always been a something within — call it the "still, small voice" if you like — that repudiates such an attitude as cowardly, and prefers to take its medicine without whimpering. It is this same "something within" that makes us self-respecting, when we are such, and which sends us questing for some philosophy of life that will stimulate this self-respect through its stressing of individual responsibility.

Responsibility in thought, in act — indeed responsibility, our own responsibility, as the very source of our existence — is the essence of the Theosophical doctrine of Karman. This teaching has a wide field of expression, ranging from the simple "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" to the recondite truths regarding the origin of good and evil. Within this range are vast possibilities of study, food for deep and sincere thought — thought that cannot stop at mere thinking but must realize itself in applied action. But whichever of its many aspects is chosen for study, this fundamental principle must be reckoned with: the beginning and the end are individual responsibility. It is this that makes of Karman so preeminently a doctrine of self-respect.

In The Esoteric Tradition (footnote 20, p. 56) Dr. de Purucker describes Karman as

all that total of a soul, which is itself, brought into present being by its own willing and thinking and feeling, working upon the fabric and the substance of itself, and thus preparing its future destiny, as its present existence was the destiny prepared for itself by its own past lives. The basis, or root, or essence, or, may we not say the law of itself — Karman — rises in the "heart" of the Universe which is immortal, impersonal, infinite, Life itself, Divine Harmony, whence spring into active operation all the so-called "Laws" of Nature that make the Mighty Mother what she is in all her septenary or denary constitution.

In the teaching as thus presented we see the relation and interrelation of Karman with its twin doctrine, Reimbodiment. This dual line of activity, coupled with the idea that the soul is "working upon the fabric . . . of itself," brings to the imagination the picture of a mighty web — Life: its warp, a long succession of reimbodiments; its woof, the series of actions and reactions that color, brightly or darkly, the web we weave from the substance of ourselves. Accepting the doctrine of Reimbodiment, the threads of our warp, at least, take on a suggestion of form, whatever their varying quality, and following the analogy of the web there appears to be no great obstacle to understanding that the weaving of the pattern is in our hands, for good or ill. Sometime, somewhere, we have chosen our pattern, and down through the ages we have developed it, strand by strand. As weavers of destiny we are creative in our work, for the design, however imperfect, is of our own making: here and there hardly perceptible shifts of color take place; occasionally there is an irregularity of line, a change in form, so that the pattern, if viewed in its entirety, gives evidence of a definite departure from the plan as first conceived.

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