Karma: cause and effect


Abbreviations:
Dia Dialogues of G. de Purucker, TUP, 1948
Echoes    Echoes of the Orient, W.Q. Judge, PLP, 1975-87
ET The Esoteric Tradition, G. de Purucker, TUP, 3rd ed., 2011
FEP Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1979
FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974
HPBM H.P. Blavatsky: The Mystery, G. de Purucker, PLP, 1974
Key The Key to Theosophy, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1972 (1889)
MiE Man in Evolution, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1977
Ocean The Ocean of Theosophy, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 1973 (1893)
OG Occult Glossary, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1996
SD The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1977 (1888)
SOP Studies in Occult Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1945
Voice The Voice of the Silence, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1976 (1889)
WoH The Wisdom of the Heart, Katherine Tingley, PLP, 1978


    ‘Karma (Karman, Sanskrit)  This is a noun-form coming from the root kri meaning “to do,” “to make.” Literally karma means “doing,” “making,” action. But when used in a philosophical sense, it has a technical meaning, and this technical meaning can best be translated into English by the word consequence. The idea is this: When an entity acts, he acts from within; he acts through an expenditure in greater or less degree of his own native energy. This expenditure of energy, this outflowing of energy, as it impacts upon the surrounding milieu, ... brings forth from the latter perhaps an instantaneous or perhaps a delayed reaction or rebound. Nature, in other words, reacts against the impact; and the combination of these two – of energy acting upon nature and nature reacting against the impact of that energy – is what is called karma ... Karma is, in other words, essentially a chain of causation, stretching back into the infinity of the past and therefore necessarily destined to stretch into the infinity of the future. ...
    ‘Karma is in no sense of the word fatalism on the one hand, nor what is popularly known as chance, on the other hand. It is essentially a doctrine of free will, for naturally the entity which initiates a movement or action – spiritual, mental, psychological, physical, or other – is responsible thereafter in the shape of consequences and effects that flow therefrom, and sooner or later recoil upon the actor or prime mover.
    ‘Since everything is interlocked and interlinked and interblended with everything else, and no thing and no being can live unto itself alone, other entities are of necessity, in smaller or larger degree, affected by the causes or motions initiated by any individual entity ... An example of this is seen in ... family karma as contrasted with one’s own individual karma; or national karma, the series of consequences pertaining to the nation of which he is an individual; or again, the racial karma pertaining to the race of which the individual is an integral member.
    ‘Karma cannot be said either to punish or to reward in the ordinary meaning of these terms. Its action is unerringly just, for being a part of nature’s own operations, all karmic action ultimately can be traced back to the kosmic heart of harmony which is the same thing as saying pure consciousness-spirit. The doctrine is extremely comforting to human minds, inasmuch as man may carve his own destiny and indeed must do so. He can form it or deform it, shape it or misshape it, as he wills; and by acting with nature’s own great and underlying energies, he puts himself in unison or harmony therewith and therefore becomes a co-worker with nature as the gods are.’ (OG 82-3)

    ‘[Karma is] the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. ...
    ‘[T]hough we do not know what Karma is per se, and in its essence, we do know how it works, and we can define and describe its mode of action with accuracy. We only do not know its ultimate Cause, just as modern philosophy universally admits that the ultimate Cause of anything is “unknowable.” ... We describe Karma as that Law of re-adjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world. ...
    ‘[O]ur present lives and circumstances are the direct results of our own deeds and thoughts in lives that are past. But we, who are not Seers or Initiates, cannot know anything about the details of the working of the law of Karma. ... Belief in Karma is the highest reason for reconcilement to one’s lot in this life, and the very strongest incentive towards effort to better the succeeding re-birth.’ (Key 201, 205, 216)

    ‘[T]he only decree of Karma – an eternal and immutable decree – is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we, who reward or punish ourselves according to whether we work with, through and along with nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or – break them.
    ‘Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony, instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways – which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate; while another sees in them the action of blind Fatalism; and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to guide them – would surely disappear, if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause. With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbours will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, ... two-thirds of the world’s evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for nor weapons to act through. ... [T]here 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 in another life. If one breaks the laws of Harmony, ... one must be prepared to fall into the chaos one has oneself produced. ... [M]an is himself his own saviour as his own destroyer [and] need not accuse Heaven and the gods, Fates and Providence, of the apparent injustice that reigns in the midst of humanity.’ (SD 1:643-4)

    ‘The Law of KARMA is inextricably interwoven with that of Re-incarnation. It is only the knowledge of the constant re-births of one and the same individuality throughout the life-cycle ... that can explain to us the mysterious problem of Good and Evil, and reconcile man to the terrible and apparent injustice of life. ...
    ‘[The law of karma] predestines nothing and no one. It exists from and in Eternity, truly, for it is ETERNITY itself; and as such, since no act can be co-equal with eternity, it cannot be said to act, for it is ACTION itself. It is not the wave which drowns a man, but the personal action of the wretch, who goes deliberately and places himself under the impersonal action of the laws that govern the Ocean’s motion. Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates causes, and karmic law adjusts the effects; which adjustment is not an act, but universal harmony, tending ever to resume its original position, like a bough, which, bent down too forcibly, rebounds with corresponding vigour. If it happen to dislocate the arm that tried to bend it out of its natural position, shall we say that it is the bough which broke our arm, or that our own folly has brought us to grief? ... KARMA is an absolute and eternal law in the world of manifestation; ... for karma is one with the Unknowable, of which it is an aspect in its effects in the phenomenal world.’ (SD 2:303-6)

    ‘Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable rock, or carries him away like a feather in a whirlwind raised by his own actions, and this is – KARMA.’ (SD 1:639)

    ‘Ceaseless in its operation, [karma] bears alike upon planets, systems of planets, races, nations, families, and individuals. It is the twin doctrine to reincarnation. ... No spot or being in the universe is exempt from the operation of karma, but all are under its sway, punished for error by it yet beneficently led on, through discipline, rest, and reward, to the distant heights of perfection. ... Applied to man’s moral life it is the law of ethical causation, justice, reward and punishment; the cause for birth and rebirth, yet equally the means for escape from incarnation. Viewed from another point it is merely effect flowing from cause, action and reaction, exact result for every thought and act. ... It is not a being but a law, the universal law of harmony which unerringly restores all disturbance to equilibrium. ... Karma is a beneficent law wholly merciful, relentlessly just, for true mercy is not favor but impartial justice. ...
    ‘No act is performed without a thought at its root either at the time of performance or as leading to it. These thoughts are lodged in that part of man which we have called manas – the mind, and there remain as subtle but powerful links with magnetic threads that enmesh the solar system, and through which various effects are brought out. ...
    ‘Karma is of three sorts:
    ‘First – that which has not begun to produce any effect in our lives owing to the operation on us of some other karmic causes. ... [T]hat person who has a wide and deep-reaching character and much force will feel the operation of a greater quantity of karma than a weaker person.
    ‘Second – that karma which we are now making or storing up by our thoughts and acts, and which will operate in the future when the appropriate body, mind, and environment are taken up by the incarnating ego in some other life, or whenever obstructive karma is removed. ...
    ‘Third – that karma which has begun to produce results. It is the operating now in this life on us of causes set up in previous lives in company with other egos. And it is in operation because, being most adapted to the family stock, the individual body, astral body, and race tendencies of the present incarnation, it exhibits itself plainly, while other unexpended karma awaits its regular turn.
    ‘These three classes of karma govern men, animals, worlds, and periods of evolution. ... [Karmic causes] operate upon man in his mental and intellectual nature, in his psychical or soul nature, and in his body and circumstances. ... And just as all these phases of the law of karma have sway over the individual man, so they similarly operate upon races, nations, and families. ...
    ‘With reincarnation the doctrine of karma explains the misery and suffering of the world, and no room is left to accuse nature of injustice. ... Individual unhappiness in any life is thus explained: (a) It is punishment for evil done in past lives; or (b) it is discipline taken up by the ego for the purpose of eliminating defects or acquiring fortitude and sympathy. ... Happiness is explained in the same way: the result of prior lives of goodness.
    ‘The scientific and self-compelling basis for right ethics is found in these and in no other doctrines.’ (Ocean 100-9)

    ‘No man but a sage or true seer can judge another’s karma. Hence while each receives his deserts, appearances may deceive, and birth into poverty or heavy trial may not be punishment for bad karma, for egos continually incarnate into poor surroundings where they experience difficulties and trials which are for the discipline of the ego and result in strength, fortitude, and sympathy.’ (Echoes 1:315)

    ‘[Karma] means action. In its widest sense it is that great law of nature recognized by all as the law of cause and effect, not only on the physical plane but on the mental and spiritual planes as well. ... The entire moral color of the world would change if men believed in karma in the moral realm as firmly as they believe in its action in the physical. ... Karma is the harvest of the good seed you have sown as well as the tares or weeds. ... The harvest of both good and evil may be long delayed, though it is always certain, for “Tomorrow thou shalt reap, or after many days.” ...
    ‘Let us remember we are today the sum of our yesterdays. Karma is no more fate than the harvest of the seed we have sown. Learn to meet your karma with equal-mindedness. Learn from it those lessons which it teaches and which both enlighten and bless. ... The inner divine self can daily and hourly exert an inherent, direct power to modify the results of the past. We can rise upon our past, making even our vices, when placed beneath our feet, stepping-stones to higher things. ...
    ‘Those who seek to excuse themselves from helping the needy by saying “It would interfere with his karma” are not living rightly. They cannot realize the truth of Universal Brotherhood; they cannot truly believe that all are parts of a great whole and that one member of the body cannot suffer without the other members also suffering. ...
    ‘Because mistakes and misdeeds bring suffering, it does not follow that all suffering is caused by sin and error. ... [T]he helpers of humanity . . . suffer “in holding back with strong hands the heavy Karma of the world” through coming close to those they would help. But in that suffering there is triumphant joy in helping those who are weak and needy. Helping and sharing is indeed the basic law of the universe. ...
    ‘[T]he religion which alone will fitly correspond to our innate religious nature will be a universal system of human brotherhood based on the knowledge that we are essentially divine; a system that will warm our hearts with the knowledge that there is nothing outside ourselves that can save or damn us; that it is we ourselves who alone must and can work out our own salvation.’ (WoH 82-4, 79)

    ‘[T]he doctrine of karma is but another way of expressing the multiform and all-various activities of existence – of the Universal Life: for the action of karma is universal. Nor can we call karma either conscious or unconscious. It is neither good nor bad, never had a beginning, never will have an end. Its action in a sense is purely automatic, for, reduced to final principles, it is but the indirect functioning of the consciousness in the core of the core of every being. ...
    ‘Karma has sometimes been called the “law of ethical causation,” and in one aspect it can indeed be so called. But such a phrase deals with only one part of the operations of nature and omits mention of the universal sway or sweep of karmic activity. Karma “rules” the so-called “inanimate” world fully as much as it does the hearts and minds of men, and of course when we say “rules” we employ popular phraseology. Strictly, karma no more “rules” or “governs” or “directs” than does the automatic action of the ocean the ebb and flow of the tides, for karma is not an originating power exterior to the acting entity or thing. So far as individuals are concerned, it is the indwelling consciousness of the acting entity which originates and sets in motion the operation of karma. ...
    ‘Nature is harmonious throughout. Its heart is harmony itself; and an action by an entity in the hosts of animate beings which make nature, is subject to the reaction of the surrounding weight of the universe upon it, moving to restore the equilibrium disturbed by such action. And this combination of the action of an originating consciousness and a reaction upon it is karma. ... Thus, ... there is nothing fatalistic about the doctrine of karma. It is action originating in the free will and consciousness of some entity which induces the reaction of nature.’ (HPBM 194-6)

    ‘Everything is an agent of karma; but ... do not think that karma is an abstract law or entity outside of us. Karma is whatever is. ... The elementals cause it. Humans cause it. The gods cause it. [It] is the adjustment between action and reaction; action originated by and in some entity, the reaction abiding in surrounding lives which react against the act. That is all there is to it. There is no such thing as karma existing apart from entities. ... There are no “laws of nature” apart from entities which act. It is the acting entity which produces or originates karma. Karma, therefore, is the entity itself in the last analysis.’ (Dia 3:46-7)

    ‘Karma is not a law made by something or somebody. ... [It] is the habit of universal and eternal nature, a habit inveterate, primordial, which so works that an act is necessarily ... followed by an ineluctable result, a reaction from the nature in which we live.’ (FEP 537, 158; see also 172-3)

    ‘We ourselves are our own karma. And this is precisely what the Lord Buddha meant when he said that there is no such thing as a personal or individualized soul which is eternal. It is the man’s karma that lives, the man himself, the continuation of the chain of causation which any human being is. ... Man is his own creator, his own redeemer ...’ (Dia 1:402)

    ‘There is karma of many kinds: mental, physical, emotional, vital, astral, physical; and there is individual or personal karma as well as collective karma. We have to partake of the karma of the world, of our race, our family, our solar system, and of our universe, because we have put ourselves where we are – none else. ...
    ‘When man has reached quasi-divinity because he has become at one with the divine-spiritual nature of his own hierarchy, he is no longer under the sway of the general field of karmic action in that hierarchy. He has become a master of its life, because he is an agent of its inmost impulses and mandates. Thus it is that a man may rise above the karmic sphere in which he finds himself, while remaining within the hierarchical karma of cosmic Being.’ (FSO 413- 4)

    ‘Everything is the fruit of a precedaneous cause, and this precedaneous cause cannot touch any individual unless that individual was the producer of that cause, originally or intimately connected with the production of that cause. ... Karma governs all things with infinite justice, for it is the establishment of the law of harmony; and we with our feeble human understanding cannot always easily see how, when a thing is past and done let us say ten million years ago, harmony can be re-established ten million years later. But [we] must remember that our conceptions of time are pertinent to the time-sphere in which we live. ...
    ‘There is such absolute justice in this universe that an act cannot be committed, a thought thought, or an emotion experienced, without its due and orderly consequences. ... When we see something happen we cannot understand, we say accident. That is merely expressing our ignorance of what the past was. But it could not have happened to that man unless that man had been in the past, either in this life or in some other life, in some way entangled in causes which brought the fruiting of those causes about now. ... Either this, or we live in a crazy world without law and order, and where chance and fortuity and accidents can happen. ... [W]hile this body knows that it has an accident, the imbodying ego knows it was the result of karmic justice ...’ (SOP 296-7)

    ‘[K]arma means: what you sow you reap, not something else. What your present living is determines your state of consciousness after death and what you will be in your next life and succeeding lives. ... [W]e are treasuries of the past. ... You cannot wipe out a day or a year or a month of that past. It is all builded into you in your present.’ (SOP 350)

    ‘[W]hen a thought has once left the mind, it is impossible to withdraw the energy with which we have charged it; for then it is already an elemental being, beginning its upward journey. Still, if “neutralizing” thoughts of an opposite character are immediately sent forth ... the two then coalesce, and the effects of the evil ones are made “harmless” ... By thinking a noble thought or doing a good deed, following upon an evil impulse, although we cannot recall the evil thought or action and undo it, we can, to a certain extent, render at least less harmful the evil that our wrong thought or act brought about.’ (FSO 35-6)

    ‘Both health and disease are karmically the consequences of the characters and tendencies which we ourselves have impressed upon the life-atoms composing the various sheaths in which we, the human egos, are clothed during earth life: impressed upon them by our thoughts, our feelings, our desires and our habits. ... Disease, therefore, is the working out of karma, for everything that comes to a man is the consequence, the flowering, of seeds sown in the past. ... [I]t is the form of selfishness called passion, whether conscious or unconscious, which is the fruitful cause of disease – unconquered violent passion, such as hatred, anger, lust, etc. Any such passion, mental or physical, shakes the lower constitution of man ... A disease should be understood as a purifying process because the end will be a cleansing. ... Diseases actually are warnings to reform our thoughts and to live in accordance with nature’s laws.’ (FSO 403-6)

    ‘Bitter always are the fruits of retribution, for there is no escape from the consequences of an act once done, of a thought once thought, or of an emotion once liberated; for exactly what ye sow that shall ye reap, until through bitter experiences the fundamental lesson of life is learned, which is the bringing of the self into ever greater harmony with the cosmic self.’ (ET 357)

    ‘Let not the fruit of good karma be your motive; for your karma, good or bad, being one and the common property of all mankind, nothing good or bad can happen to you that is not shared by many others. Hence your motive, being selfish, can only generate a double effect, good and bad, and will either nullify your good action, or turn it to another man’s profit. ... There is no happiness for one who is ever thinking of self and forgetting all other selves.
    ‘The universe groans under the weight of such action (karma), and none other than self-sacrificial karma relieves it ... [D]o as the gods when incarnated do. Feel yourselves the vehicles of the whole humanity, mankind as part of yourselves, and act accordingly.’ (CW 11:168-9, quoted from the masters)

    ‘Your new life will be the exact result of your deeds in your preceding life. No one can escape the punishment of his sins, any more than he can escape the reward of his virtues. That is the law of karma. You must go on being reborn till you reach nirvana.’ (CW 8:403)

    ‘Our philosophy has a doctrine of punishment as stern as that of the most rigid Calvinist, only far more philosophical and consistent with absolute justice. No deed, not even a sinful thought, will go unpunished; the latter more severely even than the former, as a thought is far more potential in creating evil results than even a deed. We believe in an unerring law of retribution, called KARMA, which asserts itself in a natural concatenation of causes and their unavoidable results. ...
    ‘What we believe in, is strict and impartial justice. Our idea of the unknown Universal Deity, represented by karma, is that it is a power which cannot fail, and can, therefore, have neither wrath nor mercy, only absolute equity, which leaves every cause, great or small, to work out its inevitable effects. ... [A] man who, believing in karma, still revenges himself and refuses to forgive every injury, thereby rendering good for evil, is a criminal and only hurts himself. As karma is sure to punish the man who wronged him, by seeking to inflict an additional punishment on his enemy, he, who instead of leaving that punishment to the great Law adds to it his own mite, only begets thereby a cause for the future reward of his own enemy and a future punishment for himself.’ (Key 140, 199-200)

    ‘[C]ompare our theosophic views upon karma, the law of retribution, and say whether they are not both more philosophical and just than [the] cruel and idiotic dogma which makes of “God” a senseless fiend; the tenet, namely, that the “elect only” will be saved, and the rest doomed to eternal perdition! ...
    ‘[T]he Doctrine of Atonement [is a] dangerous dogma ... which teaches us that no matter how enormous our crimes against the laws of God and of man, we have but to believe in the self-sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of mankind, and his blood will wash out every stain. ... See how the ledger-balance of Christian justice (!) stands: Red-handed murderers ... kill their victims, in most cases, without giving them time to repent or call on Jesus. These, perhaps, died sinful, and, of course – consistently with theological logic – met the reward of their greater or lesser offences. But the murderer, overtaken by human justice, is imprisoned, wept over by sentimentalists, prayed with and at, pronounces the charmed words of conversion, and goes to the scaffold a redeemed child of Jesus! ... Clearly this man did well to murder, for thus he gained eternal happiness!’ (Key 215, 223, 225-6)

    ‘If we can do good to our fellows, that is their good karma and ours also; if we have the opportunity to thus confer benefits and refuse to do so, then that is our bad karma in that we neglected a chance to help another. The Masters once wrote that we should not be thinking on our good or bad karma, but should do our duty on every hand and at every opportunity, unmindful of what may result to us. ... We are bound up together in one coil of karma and should ever strive by good acts, good thoughts and high aspirations, to lift a little of the world’s heavy karma, of which our own is a part. Indeed no man has any karma of his own unshared by others; we share each one in the common karma, and the sooner we perceive this and act accordingly the better it will be for us and for the world.’ (Echoes 2:232) ‘[T]he indissoluble unity of the race demands that we should consider every man’s troubles as partly due to ourselves, because we have been always units in the race and helped to make the conditions which cause suffering.’ (Echoes 2:294)

    ‘[K]arma must not be misconstrued to mean that we should ever remain passive or without compassion when others suffer or are in danger, on the wholly fallacious plea that: “Oh, it is only his karma ...” Karma will ... exact every atom of retribution for the passive attitude of him who sits idly by when another is in need of help.’ (FSO 420)

    ‘[T]here is no time when a human being is not an agent of karma, for in every act and thought we are carrying out karma, making new karma, suffering old karma, or producing effects on other people, or all these together. ... [I]f you assume to administer punishment, considering yourself a karmic agent, it is more than possible that you are simply gratifying some old spite or ill-feeling ... It is therefore more charitable, more wise, more kind, more theosophic to follow the words of Jesus, Buddha, and hosts of other teachers which direct us to forgive our brother seventy times seven times, which tell us that charity covers a multitude of sins, and which warn us against the self-righteousness that might induce us to presume we have been raised up from the foundation of the world to correct abuses in other men’s actions rather than to attend to our own duty.’ (Echoes 2:310-11)

    ‘There is no chance or fortuity in the universe, and if anything could happen to us that we ourselves were not in some manner, near or distant, concerned with, or that we did not originate, then there would be gross injustice, fortuitous cruelty, and ground for despair. We make our lives great or mean, because of what we ourselves think, feel, will, and therefore do. It is only physical man with his human soul which suffers “unmerited” karmic retribution for what the reincarnating ego did in other lives; but for this “unmerited” suffering, nature has provided ample recompense in the special devachanic interludes between lives.’ (ET 246; see 265-78)

    ‘It [is] impossible that any person suffers or enjoys anything whatever except through karma; whether we are in families, nations, or races, and thus suffer and enjoy through general causes, it is still because of our own karma leading us to that place. In succeeding incarnations we are rewarded or punished according to the merit or demerit of preceding lives, and wherever it is stated in theosophic books ... that people are “rewarded for unmerited suffering” it always refers to the fact that a person does not himself perceive any connection between the suffering or reward and his own act. Consequently in devachan he makes for himself what he considers a complete reward for any supposed unmerited suffering, but in his life upon earth he receives only that which he exactly merits, whether it be happiness or the opposite.’ (Echoes 2:316) ‘If [a person] were fully enlightened, of course he would see that all that had happened was just, and no unmerited suffering would exist in that case.’ (Echoes 2:320) ‘[I]f it is unjust to be punished for deeds we do not remember, then it is also inequitable to be rewarded for other acts which have been forgotten.’ (Ocean 84-5)

    ‘[T]here is really no unmerited karma, but there is unmerited suffering to various parts of our constitution. To illustrate: I have free will. I strike out a new pathway in life because I receive an inspiration ... I change my whole course of conduct. Can I do this without receiving reactions? Of course not. ... [B]ut many of these effects are not deliberately planned by me, and in this sense the body receives unmerited suffering. Even the mind may receive suffering that it, as the mind-vehicle, did not merit. Viewed in this way we are always receiving unmerited suffering. But out of it all we learn, we grow stronger, we evolve more quickly. ...
    ‘[T]here is no such thing as unmerited karma if we mean uncaused at some time in the past by the individual unto whom it occurs. ... [However,] there is indeed apparent injustice in the suffering that each personality unquestionably experiences, in that it must face the results of the misdeeds of its predecessor which it itself did not do. ...
    ‘Even the suffering of animals, whether due to human cruelty or neglect, or to other causes such as being preyed upon by other animals, is karma. ... Their karma is to a great extent apparently unjust because they have not earned, morally speaking, the suffering that they endure. ... Nevertheless the beasts are not wholly free from karmic responsibility, for every psycho-astral monad – the center around which the beast-body is built – is the reflection of a spiritual monad, coming out of past eternities of manvantaras in which that spiritual monad made for itself karma not exhausted when those manvantaras ended. And consequently these monads have come into the present manvantara with these distant karmic stains imprinted into the very fabric of their being. The same observation applies to the plant and to the mineral kingdoms. ...
    ‘[T]he unmerited sufferings of the animals can be traced to two causes: first, the actions done by them in this or in some earlier life; and second, the things they did in a previous solar manvantara. For ... even the animals have been full-grown self-conscious entities in a former manvantara, which was must less evolved than this one ...’ (FSO 416-9)

    ‘When [an ego] is ready to reincarnate, it is drawn psychomagnetically, instinctually if you like, to the family, to the womb, most sympathetic to its vibrational rate. ... It is not the parents who give the traits to the child. It is the child, bearing these traits within himself, that is attracted by sympathy of vibrational rates to the parents who will give him a body best fitted to express the character he already possesses in potentia ...
    ‘[H]ow is it that children born of the same parents sometimes differ not merely in small degree but even in very noteworthy degree? ... It sometimes happens – and this is a paradox – that strong antipathies actually attract each other ...
    ‘When a man dies, he takes with him into the invisible worlds the essence of that character which he had been building for himself in the life just ended and in other lives before that. These attributes are called his skandhas ... The reincarnating entity attracts them together again as it descends anew through the portals of birth, and as the child grows they gradually manifest themselves as his personality ...
    ‘In the last analysis we see that man inherits from himself. Heredity is character and character is heredity. And even in the case of the purely physical heredity, it can be said that man makes his own body, the parents merely providing the workshop and to some extent the materials with which it is built. The incarnating entity is the directing power behind the scenes. And environment is simply the magnetic field that we have chosen in which we may best work out those aspects of character that are the “dominant” for that particular incarnation. ...
    ‘Man ... has free will. ... He is building now what his character will be in his next incarnation ... He is thus his own heredity, his own character, his own karma.’ (MiE 227-30)

    ‘Every human being has more than a mere physical heredity; he has an astral, a psychical, an intellectual, a spiritual and, indeed, a divine heredity. Being the child of himself, and being at present the parent of what he will be in the future, his heredity is simply the resultant of the chain of causation flowing forth from what he was before on any plane.’ (FSO 395)

    ‘There is an organ in the brain through which act the elemental karmic energies urging an individual into this or that pathway of action and thought and emotion. This has been called the “third eye,” or the “eye of Shiva,” and physically it is the pineal gland [cf SD 2:302] ... [A]s we are naught but an expression of ourselves, of our karma on all the planes, we carve our own future as we have our present and past. We do this by will, by choice, by discrimination – all belonging to the higher part of us which functions as best it may through its own organ, the pineal gland. And this, as said, is as indissolubly connected with karma as it is with each of us, recording succeeding steps in choice and discrimination – or lack of these.’ (FSO 411-2)

    ‘[T]he word lipikas means the “scribes.” Mystically, they are the celestial recorders, and are intimately connected with the workings of karma, of which they are the agents. They are the karmic “recorders or annalists, who impress on the (to us) invisible tablets of the astral light, ‘the great picture-gallery of eternity,’ a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man [and indeed of all other entities and things], of all that was, is, or ever will be, in the phenomenal Universe” (The Secret Doctrine 1:104). Their action although governed strictly by kosmic consciousness is nevertheless rigidly automatic, for their work is as automatic as is the action of karma itself. ... In one sense they may perhaps better be called kosmic energies ...’ (OG 91; see FSO 216-9)

    ‘[Narada] is the mysterious guiding intelligent power, which gives the impulse to, and regulates the impetus of cycles, kalpas and universal events. He is karma’s visible adjuster on a general scale; the inspirer and the leader of the greatest heroes of this manvantara.’ (SD 2:48)
    ‘Sometimes he overshadows men of the proper psychological, spiritual, intellectual, and even physical temperament and works through them. These [are] men of destiny. They may not in themselves be even good men [but] they are used as instruments and tools to carry out, to bring to pass, certain things that are lying in the womb of time and must come out, and there must be a guiding spiritual power to see that the performing of these events shall take place without the complete wrecking of mankind. This is Narada’s work: a protector of mankind and also an avenger. ...
    ‘[Narada] is simply the agent of karmic destiny bringing about, for instance, the breaking up of old crystallized conditions which are becoming a spiritual opiate for mankind, or stopping things that are threatening to injure mankind. ... In other words Narada is a kind of Shiva, destroyer and regenerator, but his destructions are always beneficial, he is always on the side of liberty, absolute justice [and] progress. ... [He is] an archangel of destiny, or a dhyan-chohan ..., guiding mankind’s steps through tribulation and suffering from their own folly, towards freedom and wisdom and love ...’ (FSO 690-5)

    ‘Chafe not at karma, nor at nature’s changeless laws. But struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the perishable. Help nature and work on with her; and nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance. ...
    ‘Sow kindly acts and thou shalt reap their fruition. Inaction in a deed of mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin. ... Shalt thou abstain from action? Not so shall gain thy soul her freedom. To reach nirvana one must reach self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is of loving deeds the child. ... If thou would’st reap sweet peace and rest, disciple, sow with the seeds of merit the fields of future harvests. ...
    ‘Learn that no efforts, not the smallest – whether in right or wrong direction – can vanish from the world of causes. E’en wasted smoke remains not traceless. “A harsh word uttered in past lives, is not destroyed but ever comes again.” The pepper plant will not give birth to roses, nor the sweet jessamine’s silver star to thorn or thistle turn.
    ‘Thou canst create this “day” thy chances for thy “morrow.” In the “Great Journey,” causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid justice rules the world. With mighty sweep of never erring action, it brings to mortals lives of weal of woe, the karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds.
    ‘Take then as much as merit hath in store for thee, O thou of patient heart. Be of good cheer and rest content with fate. Such is thy karma, the karma of the cycle of thy births ...
    ‘The selfish devotee lives to no purpose. The man who does not go through his appointed work in life – has lived in vain. Follow the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin, to friend and foe, and close thy mind to pleasures as to pain. Exhaust the law of karmic retribution. Gain siddhis for thy future birth.’ (Voice 14, 31-2, 34-6)

    ‘If the action of one reacts on the lives of all, ... then it is only by all men becoming brothers and all women sisters, and by all practising in their daily lives true brotherhood and true sisterhood, that the real human solidarity, which lies at the root of the elevation of the race, can ever be attained. It is this action and interaction, this true brotherhood and sisterhood, in which each shall live for all and all for each, which is one of the fundamental theosophical principles that every theosophist should be bound, not only to teach, but to carry out in his or her individual life. ... In every conceivable case he himself must be a centre of spiritual action, and from him and his own daily individual life must radiate those higher spiritual forces which alone can regenerate his fellow-men. ...
    ‘The individual cannot separate himself from the race, nor the race from the individual. The law of karma applies equally to all, although all are not equally developed. In helping on the development of others, the theosophist believes that he is not only helping them to fulfil their karma, but that he is also, in the strictest sense, fulfilling his own. It is the development of humanity, of which both he and they are integral parts, that he has always in view, and he knows that any failure on his part to respond to the highest within him retards not only himself but all, in their progressive march. ...
    ‘Every mean and selfish action sends us backward and not forward, while every noble thought and every unselfish deed are stepping-stones to the higher and more glorious planes of being. If this life were all, then in many respects it would indeed be poor and mean; but regarded as a preparation for the next sphere of existence, it may be used as the golden gate through which we may pass, not selfishly and alone, but in company with our fellows, to the palaces which lie beyond.’ (Key 234, 236-7)



Compiled by David Pratt. July 1998. Last revised: July 2016.


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