The question has often been asked whether it is possible for one to assume the karman of another and yet not violate the law that karman is absolutely implacable in its workings, the law that an effect must follow its cause as relentlessly as the rut follows the wheel. How is it possible to have Saviours of Humanity if every man must work out his own causes with no vicarious shifting of the burden?
The question has been complicated by the prevailing religions in the West. For fifteen hundred years and more they have sedulously hammered in the idea of vicarious atonement and the most ordinary observation shows that an idea so advertised and taught must have its effects in the popular mind, whether the latter is conscious of them or not. Ideas are the soul of things and the Western world has been so taught to fear and then to desire to be saved from fear that a nightmare has been built up of sinners by the million being saved by a semi-hypnotic "belief" in something which they know nothing about, neither they nor their accepted teachers.
Yet in these popular superstitions there is usually some slight seed of half-remembered mystery-teaching and they are therefore all the more difficult to shake off. On the other hand an open mind may possibly follow the clue and find out what really lies behind. Is there any such background, however slight, to the idea that one can suffer and so save another?
The answer, or one answer, is highly philosophic. It is that the whole drama of the Christ-cycle takes place within the man himself, within each and all in due time and place. It is mere exotericism that the inner Christ is externalized into another man altogether. The soul to be saved and the saving Christ are locked up as in an ark within the very complex entity known as man. If anyone wishes to tackle the problem from a practical point of view let him dwell on the shifting of the consciousness within him from the lower, material, psychic, emotional, personal part of himself to the higher, spiritual, serene, universal part of himself, the Christ-part; the Buddhi-part, if he prefers that nomenclature. We have for untold ages been doing the opposite, therefore it is not to be accomplished in a day, nor are there courses at so many dollars a time which will accomplish the desired result. But a daily and hourly expansion of the consciousness through thought and work for others will in time, perhaps a very long time, perhaps less, produce its effect. There is no short cut except concentrating on the work in hand. Many, very many, know of this and in their eager, emotional desire to excel or attain a rapid goal forget that they themselves are part of humanity, and in their efforts to help others kill themselves or cripple their efficiency with starvation or some exaggerated notion of unselfishness. It is obvious that we cannot help others very much if we do not through proper diet and exercise and other everyday methods keep our physical instruments in good order. Mens sana in corpore sano sounds like an age-old echo of the Mysteries; a sound mind in a sound body is as occult a thing as one could wish. Yet there have been many cases of a very sound mind in a frail body. Cases of spiritual development often demand that the physical shall not be too strong, but active work in the world is restricted by a lack of physical strength. H. P. B. and W. Q. Judge in sustaining and combating attacks and weaknesses in the Society used up an enormous amount of physical strength which should have been used for more important purposes in their capacity as Leaders. Only too often, instead of the members supporting them, the case was reversed.
It seems almost a true figure to imagine the Christ-part of oneself as a waiting god within — waiting for the man-part to rise into being itself spiritual and then divine. This comes only through self-effort.
Looking at it this way it is not so far-fetched to say that vicarious atonement has a seed of common-sense in it; but it must be recognized that the soul and the Saviour are in one and the same complex entity. The superstition lies in looking to an outside man or god as a saviour. The notion of such an outside saviour is akin to the notion of an infinity outside ourselves, an infinite god that is not in us and in every atom in the universe, something outside which one prays to.
Naturally there are analogies and one of them concerns the question in hand, that of a Leader taking on himself or herself the karman, the good or bad effects of every action done.
Mr. Judge, our second leader, was asked this question and he replied that it is a complicated matter not easily explained in a letter. But as a general statement it might be said that certain effects were drawn off and dissipated through H. P. B.'s personality in somewhat the manner that a lightning rod noiselessly and safely disperses an accumulation of electricity.
The rigidity of the idea of karma at first sight seems absolute. But a quiet consideration shows that concentration or spreading of effects is possible. This idea must be allied to that of the Guardian Wall around humanity. It cannot take our karma from us, but it can protect and modify and guide until we are able to bear and work out our own salvation.
We are reminded of the old Mystery-tale, if it is such, that a man was condemned to be stoned with a huge rock. That meant death. But one wise in spiritual things and clear in intuition immediately pointed out that if the rock were reduced to crumbs they could be thrown, certainly with much inconvenience, but with safety to life and limb.
Whatever conclusions may be drawn from these observations, it is an obvious fact that H. P. B. and other leaders have certainly acted as very efficient lightning rods for the salvation of the organization. Someday the world will know, or partially know, what vicious attacks the Theosophical Movement has sustained and will realize that only exceptionally wise guidance has saved it time and again from being crushed. Meanwhile there are innocent souls who imagine that anyone can be a Theosophical Leader without being gifted with enormous spiritual strength. When H. P. Blavatsky was doing her grandest work, she was undergoing such physical strain as would in a matter of weeks have shattered the frame of any who lacked the highest spiritual training. Even her strong frame was only held together by a will power rarely met with through the ages.