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The Law Of Causality (karma)

Karma is the Law of the Universe, the expression of divine Will. Its

seemingly essential attributes are Justice and Love; it neither

punishes nor rewards, but adjusts things, restores disturbed balance

and harmony, brings back evolving souls to the right path and teaches

them Law.

When a man acts against the Law, he is like a swimmer, struggling

against the current of a rapid river; his strength fails, an
he is

borne away.

So does God bear away, in spite of all their efforts, those who,

whether ignorantly or consciously, fight against the Law, for it is

His love that wills evolution, i.e., the making human beings divine;

so he brings them back to the path, in spite of themselves, every time

they wander astray.

"God is patient because He is eternal," it has been said. The sentence

is incomplete and must be changed, since it attributes to Divinity a

vindictive nature. The Law is patient because it is perfect in Wisdom,

Power, and Love.

This Law is the divine Will which moves all things and vibrates

everywhere; it is the music of the spheres, the song of glory and

harmony, which murmurs in the heart like the rippling of a waterfall,

the chant of life and joy that eternally triumphs in its never-ending

creation of beings, who, after revolving for a moment in the universe,

have become perfect.

Its glorious strains resound in the heart of man, when the soul has

found peace in the Law, and we are told that, when once heard, its

divine accents continue for ever, like an ineffable whisper which

brings us back to hope and faith, when we are sunk in the depths of


God limited himself in order to become incarnate in the Universe: He

is the Soul of the world. His will is exerted everywhere, it finds its

reflection in every creature; and man, a portion of divinity in

course of evolution, possesses a germ of will that is infinite in its

essence, and consequently capable of limitless development; God

respects this will in His creatures, and submits to violence, in order

to teach them His will, which is supreme Love. Like a stone that falls

into a tranquil lake, a human action creates, all round, concentric

ripples which continue to the very shores or limits of the Universe;

then the wave is thrown back upon itself, returns to its

starting-point, and the man who began the first movement receives a

recoil exactly equivalent to the original impetus. Reaction is equal

to action; obstacles on the way may delay its return or break up its

energy, but the time comes when the fractions return to the centre

that generates the disturbance, which thus receives from the Law a

perfectly just retribution.

The principal element in actions is thought. Every thought is a form

in a state of vibration--a ray of intelligence which unites itself

with subtle matter[29] and forms a being, of which this matter is the

body, and thought, the soul. This being, often called a

"thought-form," possesses form, duration, and strength that bear a

strict relation to the energy of the thought that created it; if it

embodies a soul of hatred, it will react on the man who harbours this

thought, and on all who come into contact with him, as a leaven of

destruction, but if it is guided by love it will be, as it were, the

incarnation of some beneficent power.

In certain cases its action is expressed visibly and rapidly; for

instance, a venomous thought may[30] cause the death of the person

against whom it is directed--this is one aspect of the "evil eye"--as

also it may[31] return to its starting-point and kill the one who

generated it, by the recoil. Every mental projection of a criminal

nature, however, by no means necessarily reaches the object aimed at;

a sorcerer, for instance, could no more injure one who was positive,

consciously and willingly good, than he could cause a grain of corn to

sprout on a block of granite; favourable soil is needed to enable the

seed of evil to take root in a man's heart; otherwise, the evil

recoils with its full force upon the one who sent it forth and who is

an irresistible magnet, for he is its very "life-centre."

Thoughts cling to their creator and attract towards this latter those

of a similar nature floating about in the invisible world, for they

instinctively come to vitalise and invigorate themselves by contact

with him; they radiate around him a contagious atmosphere of good or

evil, and when they have left him, hover about, at the caprice of the

various currents, impelling those they touch towards the goal to which

they are making. They even recoil on the visible form of their

generator; it is for this reason that physical is closely connected

with moral well-being, and most of our diseases are nothing else than

the outer expression of the hidden leaven of passion. When the action

of this latter is sudden and powerful, diseases may be the immediate

consequence thereof; blinded by materialism, certain doctors seldom

acknowledge their real cause; and yet instances of hair turning white

in a single night are too numerous to be refuted, congestion of the

brain brought on by a fit of anger, jaundice and other grave maladies

caused by grief and trouble, are to be met with continually.

When the mental forces which disturb the physical organs meet with

obstacles which prevent their immediate outlet, they accumulate, like

the electric fluid in a condenser, until an unexpected contact

produces a discharge; this condensation often persists for a whole

life in a latent condition, and is preserved intact for a future

incarnation; this is the cause of original vices, which, incorporated

in the etheric double, react upon the organic texture of the body.

This also explains why each individual possesses an ensemble of

pathological predispositions often radically different from those

heredity should have bequeathed to him; it is also, to some extent,

the key to physiognomy, for every single feature bears either the

stamp of our passions or the halo of our virtues.

Thought creates lasting bonds between human beings; love and hatred

enchain certain individuals to one another for a whole series of

incarnations; many a victim of the past is to be found again in those

unnatural sons who send a thrill of horror through society when it

hears of some heinous crime--they have become the torturers of their

former oppressors. In other cases, it is love which attracts and

unites in renewed affection those who formerly loved one another--they

return to earth as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands or


But if we are the slaves of the past, if fate compels us to reap what

we have sown, we yet have the future in our hands, for we can tear up

the weeds, and in their place sow useful plants. Just as, by means of

physical hygiene, we can change within a few years the nature of the

constituents that make up our bodies, so also, by a process of moral

hygiene, we can purify our passions and then turn their strength in

the direction of good. According as we will, so do we actually become,

good or bad; every man who has taken his evolution in hand notices

this rapid transformation of his personality, and sees his successive

"egos" rise step by step, so to speak, throughout his whole life.

Speaking generally, the first part of life is the expression of the

distant past--of former lives--the second is a mixture of the past and

of the energies of the present incarnation; the end of life is nothing

but a sinking into an ever-deepening rut for those who crystallise in

only one direction; the force of habit sets up its reign, and man

finds himself bound by the chains he himself has forged. This is the

reason an old man does not like the present times; he has stopped

whilst time has advanced, and he is now being carried along like the

flotsam and jetsam of a wreck; the very tastes and habits of his

contemporaries violently clashing with his beloved past. Speak not to

him of progress or evolution, he has brought himself into a state of

complete immobility, and he will discover no favourable field of

action nor will he acquire real energy until he has drunk of the

waters of Lethe in a rest-giving Hereafter and a new body supplies his

will with an instrument having the obedient suppleness of youth.

H. P. Blavatsky, in the Secret Doctrine, has well described this

progressive enmeshing of man in the net he himself is weaving.

"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 his web; 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

of the fight. When the last strand is woven, the 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...."

She adds shortly afterwards:

"An Occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or

cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma-Nemesis, he will

teach that nevertheless it guards the good and watches over them in

this as in future lives; and that it punishes the evil-doer, aye, even

to his seventh rebirth, so long, in short, as the effect of his having

thrown into perturbation even the smallest atom in the Infinite World

of harmony, has not been finally readjusted. For the 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


"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....

"We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the

riddle of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great

Sphinx of devouring us. But verily, there is not an accident in our

lives, not a mis-shapen day or a misfortune, that could not be traced

back to our own doings in this or in another life...."

On the same subject, Mrs. Sinnett says in The Purpose of Theosophy:

"Every individual is making Karma either good or bad in every action

and thought of his daily round, and is at the same time working out in

this life the Karma brought about by the acts and desires of the last.

When we see people afflicted by congenital ailments, it may be safely

assumed that these ailments are the inevitable results of causes

started by the same in a previous birth. It may be argued that, as

these afflictions are hereditary, they can have nothing to do with a

past incarnation; but it must be remembered that the ego, the real

man, the individuality, has no spiritual origin in the parentage by

which it is re-embodied, but is drawn by the affinities which its

previous mode of life attracted round it into the current that carries

it, when the time comes for re-birth, to the home best fitted for the

development of those tendencies....

"This doctrine of Karma, when properly understood, is well calculated

to guide and assist those who realise its truth to a higher and better

mode of life; for it must not be forgotten that not only our actions,

but our thoughts also, are most assuredly followed by a crowd of

circumstances that will influence for good or for evil our own future;

and, what is still more important, the future of many of our

fellow-creatures. If sins of omission and commission could in any case

be only self-regarding, the effect on the sinner's Karma would be a

matter of minor consequence. The fact that every thought and act

through life carries with it, for good or evil, a corresponding

influence on the members of the human family renders a strict sense of

justice, morality, and unselfishness so necessary to future happiness

and progress. A crime once committed, an evil thought sent out from

the mind, are past recall--no amount of repentance can wipe out their

results on the future....

"Repentance, if sincere, will deter a man from repeating errors; it

cannot save him or others from the effects of those already produced,

which will most unerringly overtake him either in this life or in the

next rebirth."

We will also quote a few lines from E. D. Walker in Reincarnation:

"Briefly, the doctrine of Karma is that we have made ourselves what we

are by former actions, and are building our future eternity by present

actions. There is no destiny but what we ourselves determine. There is

no salvation or condemnation except what we ourselves bring about....

Because it offers no shelter for culpable actions and necessitates a

sterling manliness, it is less welcome to weak natures than the easy

religious tenets of vicarious atonement, intercessions, forgiveness,

and death-bed conversions....

"In the domain of eternal justice, the offence and the punishment are

inseparably connected as the same event, because there is no real

distinction between the action and its outcome.

"It is Karma, or our old acts, that bring us back into earthly life.

The spirit's abode changes according to its Karma, and this Karma

forbids any long continuance in one condition, because it is always

changing. So long as action is governed by material and selfish

motives, just so long must the effect of that action be manifested in

physical rebirths. Only the perfectly selfless man can elude the

gravitation of material life. Few have attained this, but it is the

goal of mankind."

The danger of a too brief explanation of the law of Causality consists

in the possibility of being imperfectly understood, and consequently

of favouring the doctrine of fatalism.

"Why act at all, the objection will be urged, if everything is

foreseen by the Law? Why stretch out a hand to the man who falls into

the water before our very eyes? Is not the Law strong enough to save

him, if he is not to die; and if he is, have we any right to


"Such reasoning arises from ignorance and egoism.

"Yes, the law is powerful enough to prevent the man from drowning, and

also to prevent the possibility of his being saved by some passer-by,

who has been moved to pity by the sight; to doubt this were to doubt

the power of God. In the work of evolution, however, God does more

than supply man with means of developing his intelligence; in order to

enrich his heart, he offers him opportunities of sacrificing himself.

Again, the innumerable problems set by duty are far from being solved

for us; with difficulty can we distinguish a crime from a noble

action; very often we do wrong, thinking we are doing right, and it

not unfrequently happens that good results from our evil deeds; this

is why God sends us experiences which are to teach us our duty.

"The soul learns not only during its incarnations, but even more after

leaving the body,[32] for life after death is largely spent in

examining the consequences of deeds performed during life on earth.

"Whenever, then, an opportunity for action offers itself, let us

follow the impulse of the heart, the cry of duty, and not the sophisms

of the lower nature, the selfish "ego," the cold brain, which knows

neither compassion nor devotion. Do your duty, whatever happens, says

the Law, i.e., do not allege, as your excuse for being selfish, that

God, if He thinks it best, will help your brother in his trouble; why

do you not fling yourself into the fire, with the thought that, if

your hour has not yet come, God will prevent the flames from burning

you? Does not the man, who commits suicide, himself push forward the

hand on the dial of life, setting it at the fatal hour?

"The threads of karmic action are so wonderfully interwoven, and God,

in order to hasten evolution, makes such marvellous use of human

forces, both good and bad, that the first few glances cast at the

melee of events are calculated to trouble the mind rather than

reveal to it the marvels of adjustment effected by divine Wisdom, but

no sooner does one succeed in unravelling some of the entanglements of

the karmic forces, and catching a glimpse of the harmony resulting

from their surprising co-operation, than the mind is lost in amaze.

Then, one understands how the murderer is only an instrument whose

passions are used by God in carrying out the karmic decree which

condemned the victim long before the crime was committed; then, too,

one knows that capital punishment is a legal crime of which divine

Justice makes use--yes, a crime, for none but God can judge; every

being has a right to live, and does live, until God condemns him.

"But man, by making himself, even ignorantly, the instrument of Karma,

acts against the universal law, and is preparing for himself that

future suffering which results from every attack made on the harmony

of the whole."[33]

On the other hand, Destiny is not an immutable mass of forces; will

can destroy what it has created, that is a question of time or energy;

and when these are unable, within a given period, to bring about the

total destruction of a barrier belonging to the past, none the less

does this barrier lessen day by day, for the "resultant" of this

system of opposing forces changes its direction every moment, and the

final shock, when it cannot be avoided, is always diminished to a

greater or less degree.

In the case of those who have attained to a perfect reading of the

past, their knowledge of the hostile forces is complete, and the

neutralisation of these forces immensely facilitated. They can seek

out, in this world or in the next, those they wronged in the past, and

thus repair the harm done; they can see the source of those thoughts

of hatred that are sent against them, and destroy them by the

intervention of love;[34] they can find out the weak points of their

personal armour and strengthen them: it is this that in theosophical

language is called the burning of Karma in the fire of "Wisdom."

None the less, there are two points in the law of Causality, which

appear to favour the idea of fatalism, though in reality, they are

merely corollaries of Karma. According to the first, every force is

fatal, in the sense that, if left to itself, it is indestructible.

This is not fatality, for the force can be modified by meeting with

forces differing in character, and if no such encounter takes place,

it finally unites with the cosmic Law, or else is broken to pieces

upon it, according as it moves with evolution or against it.[35] Only

in one sense, then, is it fatal; it cannot be destroyed save by an

opposing force of the same momentum. For instance, in order to

annihilate an obstructive force, created in the past, the soul must

expend an amount of energy that is equal and opposite to that force;

it meanwhile cannot devote itself to any other work, thus causing, in

one sense, a useless production of energy; in other words, evolution

will suffer delay,[36] but, we must repeat, that is not fatality.

Now to the second point.

Thought, by repetition, gains ever-increasing energy, and when the

forces which thoughts accumulate have become as powerful as those of

the will of the Ego which created them, a final addition of

energy--another thought--alone is needed for the will to be overcome

and the heavier scale of the balance to incline; then the thought is

fatally realised in the action. But so long as dynamic equilibrium has

not been reached, the will remains master, although its power is ever

diminishing, in proportion as the difference in the forces becomes

smaller. When equilibrium is reached, the will is neutralised; it

becomes powerless, and feels that a fall is only a question of

moments, and, with a fresh call of energy, the thought is fatally

realised on the physical plane; the hour of freedom has gone and the

fatal moment arrived. Like some solution that has reached saturation

point, obedient to the last impulse, this thought crystallises into an


Many a criminal thus meets, in a single moment, the fatality he has

created in the course of several incarnations; he no longer sees

anything, his reason disappears; in a condition of mental darkness

his arm is raised, and, impelled by a blind force, he strikes

automatically. "What have I done?" he immediately exclaims in horror.

"What demon is this that has taken possession of me?"

Then only is the crime perpetrated, without there being time for the

will to be consulted, without the "voice of conscience" having been

invited to speak. The whole fatality of automatism is in the deed,

which has been carried through without the man suspecting or being

conscious of it; his physical machine has been the blind instrument of

the force of evil he has himself slowly accumulated throughout the

ages. But let there be no mistake; every time a man, who is tempted,

has time to think, even in fleeting fashion, of the moral value of the

impulse which is driving him onward, he has power to resist; and if he

yields to this impulse, the entire responsibility of this final lapse

is added on to that incurred by past thoughts.

Among the victims of these actions that have become fatal are often to

be found those who are near the stage of initiation, for before being

exposed to the dangers of the bewildering "Path," which bridges the

abyss--the abyss which separates the worlds of unity from the illusory

and transitory regions of the Universe--they are submitted to the most

careful tests.

There may even be found souls that tread this path,[37] bearing within

themselves[38] some old surviving residue which has not yet been

finally thrown into the physical plane, and must consequently appear

for the last time before falling away and disappearing for ever.[39]

Mankind, incapable of seeing the man--the divine fragment gloriously

blossoming forth in these beings--often halts before these dark spots

in the vesture of the great soul, these excreta flung off from the

"centre," belonging to the refuse of the vehicle, not to the soul, and

in its blindness pretends to see, in its folly to judge, loftily

condemning the sins of a brother more evolved than itself!

The future will bring men greater wisdom, and teach them the greatness

of their error.[40]

At the conclusion of this important chapter, let us repeat that

Karma--divine Will in action--is Love as well as justice, Wisdom as

well as Power, and no one ought to dread it. If at times it uses us

roughly and always brings us back to the strait way when folly leads

us astray, it is only measuring its strength against our weakness, its

delicate scales balance the load according to our strength, and when,

in times of great anguish or terrible crisis, man is on the point of

giving way, it suddenly lifts the weight, leaves the soul a moment's

respite, and only when it has recovered breath is the burden replaced.

The righteous Will of God is always upon us, filling our hearts with

its might; His Love is ever about us, enabling us to grow and expand,

even through the suffering he sends, for it is ourselves who have

created this suffering.