[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.]
Webs of Destiny — fashioned by our thoughts and actions throughout countless incarnations! How we have become enmeshed in the folds of our own weaving; and, indeed, are hampered, or mayhap speeded, in our progress along life's journey from day to day by these webs of our own making.
Many people are confused in their outlook upon life: it is because they think in terms of one life: they become bewildered and discouraged by life as they see it today — with its tragedies, its suffering, its cruelty and apparent injustices. They ask, why? — Why do these things come to me? The answer to the question lies in a knowledge of the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom. As a soothing draught to parched lips comes the message: think in centuries — not in terms of one life only. Do not regard the events of this life as the be-all and end-all, but view this life as but one in a long succession of lives — stretching back into the very dawn of time and out into a future of limitless horizons of consciousness.
Let us go back in thought to the very fountain of Truth itself, expressed, as it has been, in the fundamental propositions of the Ancient Wisdom. A belief in, and an understanding of, these fundamental propositions gives us the explanation of our subject — The Webs of Destiny. Let us review them briefly, as stated by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine.
First: An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Immutable Principle — Parabrahman, the Boundless. To attempt to define this is but to limit it, yet it envelops us, and we are in it, for it is the Source of All.
Second: the Eternity of the Universe. The eternal unbreakable stream of consciousness of all beings: life-consciousness eternally manifesting itself in periods of activity to be followed by periods of rest: an appearance followed by a disappearance. Here we have the teaching of reimbodiment: a universal cosmic law which all things must follow — the law of periodicity, action and repose, day and night, waking and sleeping: expressed in the East by the Day of Brahma and the Night of Brahma.
Third: the fundamental identity of all souls with the Universal Over-Soul, and the obligatory pilgrimage for every soul through the cycle of incarnation, in accordance with cyclic and karmic Law. In this third fundamental proposition of the Secret Doctrine we find the essence of our subject — Webs of Destiny: the Oneness of all Life, springing from a Central Source of Life; and the Pilgrimage of all souls on the Cycle of Incarnation, and the cyclic and karmic Law.
To fully understand the law of Karman, we must study it with its twin-doctrine of Reimbodiment: we cannot understand one without the other. Let us remember then that we are all one in essence, parts of one great whole, and whatever affects one part affects the whole, however infinitesimal. "You cannot touch a flower without troubling a star," said the poet, expressing the same idea.
Coming under karmic law — which has been popularly called the law of cause and effect — our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions are the producers of causes which will one day come back to us as effects; and because we are all linked together by our common divine origin, our thoughts and actions act and react not only upon ourselves but upon others. We are linked together, and our individual webs of destiny are inextricably woven with the webs of destiny of every other living entity. In The Key to Theosophy H. P. Blavatsky has this to say upon this theme:
the interdependence of Humanity is the cause of what is called Distributive Karma, and it is this law which affords the solution to the great question of collective suffering and its relief. It is an occult law, moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings, without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way, no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such thing as "Separateness." — p. 203
As we live we can raise the whole level of the world's consciousness: we can add our efforts to the forces of Light, or by sinning we lower the whole level. What a sense of responsibility this gives us!
Karman is the great law of readjustment: it tends to restore disturbed equilibrium and restore harmony: for there is a cosmic law of harmony and our actions produce effects which disturb this law of harmony and equilibrium. Consequently man's acts react upon himself and will do so until he learns to live in such a way that he no longer breaks this universal law. Pain and suffering and tragedy are the results of a want of harmony. The greatest disturber of harmony is selfishness in some form or other.
There is a very simple rule for curing this: Think of the other fellow; share with him when you can; learn to understand; to forgive; to sympathize. Be considerate, for he, like you, is a pilgrim on the path, with his problems, similar to yours or maybe quite different. He too is working out his web of destiny, which may or may not be interlinked with yours. But he is your brother, nevertheless.
With the Ancient Wisdom there is no outside influence or deity that rewards and punishes. There is justice in the thought that the things which are ours, the things which belong to us, shall come to us, good or ill. If we truly believe this then we can accept all things, feeling that all is just. Upon this concept then, we may weave the pattern of our lives, weave for ourselves our web of destiny: that web, fashioned from the threads of action woven not only in this life but through the countless lives preceding this present incarnation; and because of the interaction and interdependence of all beings, our webs of destiny are united with the webs of destiny of all our fellow-pilgrims on the evolutionary pathway.
Nothing happens by chance in this world; every event in our lives is the result of preceding causes, and as said in The Esoteric Tradition:
what men popularly call chance or hazard or even fortuity, is merely what knowledge or research or investigation has not yet brought sufficiently to light as being a link or links in the chain of universal causation. — p. 471
I have always found this idea of the webs of destiny a very fascinating and extremely interesting topic; for it touches us all so closely in our daily lives: in our relations to events, individual and national; our associations with people, whether intimately in the family relation or in a wider more general association, in the municipality, state or nation. For in this particular aspect of the ancient Wisdom, in this facet of the jewel of truth, lies the answer to the many problems which perplex and puzzle so many, many people. Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why do we suffer? Why must such horrible catastrophes affect mankind? Why must my son die while others live? Why am I poor when others are rich? And why all the apparent injustices we meet with everywhere? All answers to these questions are summed up in the words: Webs of Destiny.
Nothing happens by chance in the world. Is it by chance that we are here, at this particular time in the world today — engulfed as it is by a world catastrophe? No! We so acted in some other nation in the past that today we reap the harvest of the seed sown in those far past ages. We were that nation. For remember that nations as nations disappear, but the entities composing that nation reappear as other nations. Let us not ask ourselves: Was it in Babylon, in Assyria, in Egypt, in Rome, in Greece? — that does not matter. What does matter and what brings us together today at this time is that we are all drawn back by karmic ties to the nation and with the people who formed that particular nation in the past: here to work out in suffering and sorrow, in joy and happiness, the result of our deeds, our thoughts and our feelings in those far past ages.
Karman is not fate; man is not the will-less victim of an inscrutable fate. It is the teaching of the Ancient Wisdom that "Man is a willing agent throughout his beginningless and endless course of destiny — in other words, he constantly exercises his modicum of Free Will" . . . — The Esoteric Tradition, p. 472