I remember my grandmother telling me that, although she recognized the truth of ideas like karma, she found them much less consoling than the Christian beliefs of her childhood. Making her present character and circumstances, and determining the course of future lives by her conduct, seemed sometimes a relentless burden of personal responsibility. How much more comforting to lay all her sins on Jesus and go to an eternal heaven through faith.
Of course at times we all wish to lean on something external that seems more secure and stronger than we are. But in identifying with our weakness, we see ourself at the mercy of outside influences and our future as beyond our control. In recognizing our responsibility for making our destiny, we do lose the ability to blame God or chance or others for our flaws or difficulties; nor can we depend on being bailed out. But in return we are creators rather than victims, and life certainly makes it clear over and over that real security and confidence lie in depending on our own inner resources.
Although we may realize that we have the freedom to shape the future and remedy past mistakes, few of us really feel in control. We are hardly aware that our fundamental being is dynamically creative, transcending the restrictions of space and time. Instead we identify with our superficial aspects and center our consciousness far from our spiritual core-self. When we act through the everyday person of habit and conditioned responses, our choices are largely predictable and determined. Yet, if we will, we can choose to do, to feel, to be, whatever we desire. In fact all our choices, automatic as well as deliberate, shape us constantly, as Emerson brings out:
You think me the child of my circumstances: I make my circumstance. Let any thought or motive of mine be different from that they are, the difference will transform my whole condition and economy. I — this thought which is called I — is the mould into which the world is poured like melted wax. The mould is invisible, but the world betrays the shape of the mould. You call it the power of circumstance, but it is the power of me. — "The Transcendentalist"
It is this ability within each of us — to make choices, to exercise our will — that makes us responsible and marks us as spiritual beings. And the most real consolation, it seems to me, lies in this power to make ourself and be accountable for all our choices.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Theosophical University Press)