Karma explained and investigated

In this, the third part of our occult studies course, we examine the vexed question of Karma, in order to discover what it is and what it is not.

You can find full details about our occult studies course by clicking the link above.

We have heard the most abstruse, weird and fantastic explanations of Karma from many different sources. If Karma were a donkey it would need a very broad back to carry all the blame that some people will put on it. One mystic of our acquaintance once told us that people who sustain damage through osteopathic manipulations are no more nor less than reincarnated ancient torturers who worked for, or were in charge of, the Spanish Inquisition. We should hate to think that this is true for we know some very good and kind people who have suffered through the inexperience or negligence of medical practitioners, and no doubt you do too. One might take this karmic analogy further and say that these same inexperienced practitioners were once the victims of the very people they have now inadvertently injured.

Then there are some really weird Eastern sects who believe that if you cut a chicken's head off or slaughter an ox—both of which practices are authorised in the Bible—you will be reborn as a chicken or an ox in your next life and suffer the same fate. We do hope this is not true! Not that we have ever personally slaughtered any animals, for we think too much of them to wish to do so, but we might have done something equally dreadful. We should definitely not wish to come back like the moths we sprayed with insecticide only last week, and experience the same unpleasantness ourselves. But perhaps because the moths were destroying our clothes it may have been Karma stepping in, in the shape of US, with an aerosol, so all is well, we hope.

Personally we think that spiritually-minded people worry too much about Karma, so that to many it has become a bugbear that invades all their thinking and interferes with their actions, creating a fear and guilt complex. To others Karma appears to be such a complicated mass of obscure, unexplainable and hidden laws that they give up all attempts to understand what it might really be.

The orthodox doctrine of Karma: 'cause and effect'

The best thing to do is to thoroughly examine the orthodox doctrine of Karma as it is understood and accepted by almost all mystics and occultists, to see what truth, if any, there is in it. So that is what we will now do. The first thing we discover is that all the best authorities say Karma is the law of cause and effect. This means that if you do someone a wrong, such-and-such will happen to you sooner or later, so that in this way you will learn to behave better on subsequent occasions. That is to say—if you are an ass! For an ass does not knock his or her foot twice against the same stone. He or she has learnt their lesson the first time. Does that mean the ass will go up in the scale of evolution and appear as a mule in their next incarnation? Or even a full-blown cart-horse? We suppose it must depend on what sort of impression is made on his ass' mind when he becomes fully conscious of his new-found wisdom on managing to miss the stone the second time.

This is our first hint as to what Karma really is; the effect of our actions upon the MIND. Let us delve a little further into this subject. According to the ancient Indian teachings, Karma, or Karman, is a Sanskrit noun meaning deed or action. In addition to this simple meaning it also has a technical meaning, both in the philosophical and colloquial speech of India, denoting "a person's deeds as determining his future lot." This is not meant merely in the vague sense that generally good will be rewarded and evil punished, but that every single act must work out to the uttermost its inevitable consequences, and receive its retribution, however many ages the process may require. Every part of the material universe—man, woman, insect, tree, stone, and we presume the tummy bug that makes us ill after a bad takeaway, is the dwelling of an eternal spirit that is working out its destiny, and while receiving reward and punishment for the past is simultaneously laying up reward and punishment for the future.

This Eastern view of existence as an endless serial sowing and reaping is accepted by the learned and unlearned alike as accounting for the inequalities of human life which might otherwise lead men to doubt the existence of God. This does not make heaven and hell unnecessary to the devout Hindu. The two exist in many forms in Hinduism, more or less grotesque, and after death the Higher Self is said to pass in to one of them to receive its due. But that existence is also marked by desire and action and so produces merit or demerit, and as the Higher Self is still entangled in the meshes of Karma it must reincarnate again on earth and continue to strive. The Hindu concept of salvation is simply deliverance from the power of Karma, and each of its philosophic systems has its own method of obtaining it. Whilst the origin of this doctrine cannot be traced with certainty, there is little doubt that it is post-vedic, that it was readily accepted by Gautama Buddha in the 6th century B.C. (although he considerably modified it), and that it is common to both Brahmanism and Buddhism as they are practised today, as well as many 'New Age' belief systems.

This doctrine further teaches that everything is done for eternity, that, in short, 'you reap what you sow'. Action is not homogeneous, but on the contrary contains three elements, the thought which conceives it, the will which finds the means to accomplish it, and the union of thought and will which brings the action to pass. It is plain from this that thought is very potent for good or evil, for as the thought is, so will the action be. The miser, thinking of avarice, is avaricious, the libertine, thinking of vice, is vicious, and on the contrary, those who think virtuous thoughts, show virtue in their actions. The doctrine of Karma, must, however, not be considered in relation to only one life, but in the light of reincarnation, too. The new-born man or woman carry within them the seeds of what they formerly were. Their character is the same as it was, and as they have made it, so does it continue, unless they change it, as all have the power to do. In each successive incarnation that character becomes more definite in one direction or another, and if it be evil, the effort to change it becomes increasingly difficult. In such cases the promptings of evil may be too strong to be resisted, yet the man who has an intelligent knowledge of Karma, though he must eventually yield, does so only after the most desperate struggle of which he is capable. Remember—these are not our beliefs. All that we have said up to now is the generally accepted doctrine of the workings of Karma as it is understood and taught in both East and West—and what a gloomy and uncomfortable doctrine it is!

How the doctrine of Karma was born and spread

But does any of this explain the mystery of Karma and its workings? As we have learned so far, stress is laid on the power of thought, or, in other words, of the mind. Given a certain intensity of will, the things created by the mind become subjective. Psychologists would call these mental images hallucinations, although to their creator they are as real as any visible object is to any one else. Given a more intense and intelligent concentration of this will, and the forms become objective to all. This demonstrates what a strongly directed and sustained thought may achieve. Many thousands of years ago the doctrine of Karma was unknown. Man lived freely and happily as the birds in the air or the lilies in the field, taking no thought for tomorrow that never comes, and not bothering about yesterday that is over and done with. Then one man had an idea. We think he was a priest and we are sure he must have been a Sagittarian as they always want to change everything, calling it "progress." He communicated his thought to his fellow priests and showed them that, if only they worked together and gave this new idea to mankind their power as priests would become so strong that eventually—through fear—they would rule the world and all its riches.

And so the doctrine—or perhaps dogma would be a better word—of Karma was promulgated and the era of power commenced for the priesthood, and the true knowledge of man's freedom, to which he or she is entitled as a son or daughter of God, was stamped out and forgotten. By means of powerful rites and exhortation the new doctrine of cause and effect, sin and punishment, fear of death and the hereafter, was driven ruthlessly into the minds and thoughts of mankind and they have remained slaves to it ever since. And so we witness the sad spectacle of an endless procession of priests thundering perdition from their pulpits and putting the Fear of God into men's hearts, instead of filling the hearts of their congregations with God's Love.

We see the cunning Tibetan lama depicting hells and punishments of the most refined and ecstatic cruelty, as anyone may read in the 'Bardo Thodol' or Tibetan Book of the Dead. We read of the frightful persecutions, burnings and torturings by the 'Holy' Inquisition of heretics, witches and warlocks in the middle and later ages. We hear today with the deepest dismay—in this 21st century—the hate-filled clarion calls of fanatical Mullahs to maim, mutilate and murder the enemies of Islam, and even fellow Muslims, if they happen to belong to a different sect—all in the name of Allah, the compassionate and merciful God! And finally we witness the sanctimonious female deliverers of the Gospel of the Prince of Peace cursing and praying for the death of homosexuals and those who abort pregnancies in the United States.

Why there is no such thing as Karma

If you have not already realised what Karma really is, we will now tell you. But before we do so, please consider what we said earlier when we gave you a most important hint: Karma is the effect of our actions upon the MIND. In other words, Karma is the realisation of a state of consciousness which has no connection whatever with actuality. We hope that we shall thoroughly shock you when we say that there is no such thing as Karma. We repeat: there is no such thing as Karma! We do not believe in it, any more than we believe in the dogma of sin and punishment, as such.

We are either negative and destructive in our thinking and acting, and so associate with the black side of everything in the universe—or we think positive and constructive thoughts—building in the Light of Truth and Goodness, instead of cowering like cowards in dark corners, together with all the devils of Hell. There is no middle way, unless we call aimlessly drifting along without even attempting to turn to the light or darkness a third way. But to imagine such an existence as another way, or PATH must be unthinkable to any reasonable man or woman. We are—or should be—either dwellers in the murky dark, for ever hating, moaning and destroying, or we are children of the Light. There is no middle way.

And yet, when we behold the sorrowful procession of anxious people who daily cross our path we realise with agonising pity that so many do drift aimlessly through life; full of fears and vain imaginings. One of the reasons we created this website is because we do so want to help these poor unfortunates to a realisation of the greater life that awaits them all, of the great beacon of the LIGHT that beckons them homewards incessantly, and of that great Love and Patience and Understanding that is so deeply longing to gather its lost and drifting children into its protecting arms. Once you identify with that great Light realisation will come to you in a blinding flash of its utter protection and its Eternal Truth. It will then be utterly impossible to even think of such things as darkness, fear, sickness, superstition or KARMA.

You can read what Karma really is and how it works, in the sidebar on your right. But please do not write to us about this, citing various 'Theosophical' and other occult 'authorities' in the hope of proving we are wrong to dismiss this pernicious and erroneous doctrine, for we will not answer you. We all have the God-given free will to accept such doctrines or not, but we HOPE that if you have read and understood all that we have said on this subject, you will want to eliminate the word Karma from your vocabulary once and for all. Having done so, you will no longer be the victim of "fate" or "destiny", but play an active part in shaping your future REINCARNATION, which is the subject of the fourth of our series of articles in this occult studies course.


Published 12 March 2013 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 10 June 2023.

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