The Theosophical Forum – May 1950


Out of the Past into the Future sweeps the mighty, majestic Law of Karman, the law of cause and effect, the law of consequences. Its source rises in the very heart of the Universe which is Love, Harmony, Compassion. Karman is Life itself for it is immortal, impersonal, infinite in its action and encompasses the activities of the Kosmos, solar systems, planets, man as well as every atom in space.

In order to understand Karman and its twin-doctrine Reincarnation it is necessary to realize that the Universe in which we live and move and have our being is an organic whole — one single Organism composed of an infinite number of lesser organisms imbodying varying degrees of consciousness and development. We are intimately linked to the stars, the sun, the planets and all celestial bodies which not only act upon us, but which feel the results of our actions and reactions.

Francis Thompson, a modern poet, has intuitively felt this intimacy and expressed it beautifully as follows:

All things by immortal power
Near or far,
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.

Karman is derived from a Sanskrit verb meaning "to do" or "to make" and this implies action — cause and effect. This action has two aspects. First, there is the action from within outwards of the awakened consciousness-center or seed of life, whether it be a solar system, planet, man or atom. From its birth the consciousness-center begins to unfold as a scroll its own essence — that which is locked up within itself — its inherent nature, qualities, attributes. These characteristics have been formed by the thinking, feeling, willing of the entity concerned over a succession of past lives. Thus, the man we see today is the sum total of countless past lives. The second aspect of Karman is the effect, or impact, of this consciousness-center or entity on the Nature surrounding it. If you throw a pebble into a pool of water the ripples reach out until they make an impact on the bank. In so doing numberless atomic lives are affected and thus react to these ripples. Just so do vibrations of thought and energy sent out from a man reach out into infinity, and affect all the lives that are touched by him. Equally, however, do our thoughts, good and bad, "come home to roost," to give us comfort or pain.

Being an absolute, immutable law of the Universe, Karman is unerring and never-failing in its justice. It is a dark, inscrutable law to us, because the people of the West have been taught to believe in a personal god outside ourselves to whom we could pray and beg favors and free ourselves from wrong-doing by penance. Also, the West has been deprived of the teaching of Reincarnation since 553 a.d. when this doctrine was anathematized by the Church at the second Council of Constantinople. In our Christian teachings we have this law of cause and effect, or Karman, expressed clearly in the following words of St. Paul: "God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." Without the light of Reincarnation to explain and clarify this law of Karman, or absolute justice, the inequalities, suffering, pain and injustices experienced in one life seem bitter and cruel — one life of sorrow seems meaningless and purposeless.

Karman is intricate because it operates not only on the physical plane, but on the mental and spiritual planes as well. We not only have our individual karman, but we have our family karman, our national karman and our racial karman. It is no wonder that today we stand bewildered and stunned before such horrors as the atom and hydrogen bombs — the Frankenstein of our own making. Our knowledge is stupendous, but we fail to perceive that the laws of the Universe are moral and ethical, being rooted in Harmony, Compassion and Equilibrium. The exact and precise nature of the law of cause and effect has been stated by H. P. Blavatsky as follows: "There is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or another life."

We understand the laws governing physical nature because we can see results and can measure and prove them. It is not so easy to observe the workings of the mind and follow the avalanches of thought that pass through the mind. But it is in this thought realm that lie our difficulties, for ideas rule the world; and yet we do not even know how to rule our thoughts or our lives. What motivates our thoughts — selfishness, greed, personality, or love, altruism, and impersonality? Love evokes love, hate attracts hate — both are equally magnetic and dynamic.

"Thoughts are things" — living, vital entities that have a life and power of their own. The force and intensity with which a thought is conceived gives it its vitality. Within the circumference of a thought are a positive and negative pole — a pull upwards and a pull downwards. Man as a thinker has the free will to choose his pathway moment by moment, thought by thought, up or down in this world of duality. Everything is dual that one can think of, with the exception of the middle way. It is the pathway of balance and discrimination — in other words the razor's edge.

It is in a fine attunement of union between mind and heart and all the principles of man's constitution that such a balance and equilibrium is attained. Golden Precepts of Esotericism states: "Sow an act and you will reap a habit, sow a habit and you will reap a destiny because habit builds character. This is the sequence, an act, a habit, a character, a destiny." Man is the creator of his own destiny and so is his own savior or his own destroyer. As Dr. de Purucker has said, "No one can think for man, feel for him, choose for him, will for him, but the man himself."

Man is not a victim of fatalism whose lot in life is fixed, nor is he a victim of chance, tossed hither and yon without purpose. The knowledge that strict, impartial justice rules the world gives a man strength to face whatever comes his way for in some way he realizes he is getting his just deserts and he knows by facing his problems with courage he will transcend them. Thus, a firm foundation is laid in a man's character whereby he realizes that he is creator of his own destiny. As he works on and gains in mastery over himself his vision broadens; he has found something of value to share with his fellowmen and he can become of service to those Helpers of Humanity who are always working in the world. Doors open and point the way toward a purposeful collaboration with Nature's Plan.

Although we shun pain and suffering, such experiences are our best teachers. We then have an opportunity to test our inner strength. And as Emerson has observed our defects which may appear a hindrance may prove of usefulness just as the stag in the fable admired his horns and blamed his feet; but when the hunter came his feet saved him and afterwards caught in the thicket his horns destroyed him. From out of our weaknesses grows our strength for we gain the strength of the temptations we resist. A man who lives without suffering, without change, is like a stagnant pool without the flowing currents of life passing through him to refresh and purify.

Theosophy, the archaic wisdom of the ages, helps man to understand himself and the universe in which he lives. Theosophy is the science of right living, for within each man's inmost being there is a blue-print, a pattern, of what he would like to be. When a man strives toward his ideal it begins to take form. He molds and models this form as a sculptor giving it symmetry, grace, proportion; and as he works he realizes this model must have warmth, color, life, vitality, compassion, understanding. When the last touch is added he recognizes he has produced a work of art — a masterpiece. Like Pygmalion love fills his entire being for this creation which is himself. He has become his own creation, his own ideal, man perfected, a perfect vehicle of universal love, free from earthly Karmic bonds — a product of aeons of laborious work.

The man thus freed is now qualified to become an active co-worker with the Brotherhood of Great Men, true Sages and Seers, whose life and entire work are devoted to watching over the spiritual and intellectual destiny of men.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition