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Of this karma of humanity man has a vague instinctual or intuitional feeling and because of it fears the wrath of God and asks for mercy.

—The Zodiac.



Vol. 7 AUGUST 1908 No. 5

Copyright 1908 by H. W. PERCIVAL



KARMA is a word which for thousands of years has been used by the Hindus. Karma includes the ideas expressed by other and later peoples, in such words as kismet, destiny, foreordination, predestination, providence, the inevitable, fate, fortune, punishment, and reward. Karma includes all that is expressed by these terms, but means much more than any or all of them. The word karma was used in a larger and more comprehensive manner by some of those among whom it first appeared than it is among those of the same race by whom it is now employed. Without an understanding of the meanings of its parts and what these parts in combination were intended to convey, the word karma could never have been coined. The use to which it has been put in these latter years has not been in its most comprehensive sense, but rather limited and restricted to the sense of such words as above mentioned.

For over two centuries Oriental scholars have been familiar with the term, but not until the advent of Madame Blavatsky and through the Theosophical Society, which she founded, have the word and the doctrine of karma become known to and accepted by many in the West. The word karma and the doctrine which it teaches is now found in most modern lexicons and is incorporated into the English language. The idea of karma is expressed and felt in current literature.

Theosophists have defined karma as cause and effect; the reward or punishment as the results of one’s thoughts and actions; the law of compensation; the law of balance, of equilibrium and of justice; the law of ethical causation, and of action and reaction. All this is comprehended under the one word karma. The underlying meaning of the word as indicated by the structure of the word itself is conveyed by none of the definitions advanced, which are modifications and particular applications of the idea and principle on which the word karma is constructed. Once this idea is grasped, the meaning of the word is apparent and the beauty of its proportion is seen in the combination of the parts making up the word karma.

Karma is composed of two Sanskrit roots, ka and ma, which are bound together by the letter R. K, or ka, belongs to the group of gutterals, which is the first in the fivefold classification of the Sanskrit letters. In the evolution of the letters, ka is the first. It is the first sound which passes the throat. It is one of the symbols of Brahmâ as a creator, and is represented by the god Kama, who corresponds to the Roman Cupid, the god of love, and to the Greek Eros in their sensuous application. Among the principles it is kama, the principle of desire.

M, or ma, is the last letter in the group of labials, which is the fifth in the fivefold classification. M, or ma, is used as the numeral and measure of five, as the root of manas and is analogous to the Greek nous. It is the symbol of the ego, and as a principle it is manas, the mind.

R belongs to the cerebrals, which is the third group in the fivefold classification of the Sanskrit. R has the continuous rolling sound R-r-r, made by placing the tongue against the roof of the mouth. R means action.

The word karma, therefore, means desire and mind in action, or, the action and interaction of desire and mind. So there are three factors or principles in karma: desire, mind and action. The proper pronunciation is karma. The word is sometimes pronounced krm, or kurm. Neither pronunciation is fully expressive of the idea of karma, because karma is the joint action (r) of ka (kama), desire, and (ma), mind, whereas krm or kurm is closed, or suppressed karma, and does not represent action, the main principle involved. If the consonant ka is closed it is k and cannot be sounded; the r may be sounded, and if followed by the closed consonant ma, which then becomes m, there is no sound generated and therefore no expression of the idea of karma, because the action is closed and suppressed. For karma to have its full meaning it must have the free sound.

Karma is the law of action and extends from the grain of sand to all the manifested worlds in space and to space itself. This law is present everywhere, and nowhere outside the limits of a clouded mind is there a place for such notions as accident or chance. Law rules supreme everywhere and karma is the law to which all laws are subservient. There is no deviation from nor exception to the absolute law of karma.

Some people believe that there is no law of absolute justice, because of certain occurrences which they name “accident” and “chance.” Such words are adopted and used by those who neither comprehend the principle of justice nor see the intricacies of the working out of law in its relation to any special case. The words are used in connection with the facts and phenomena of life which appear to be contrary to or not connected with law. Accidents and chance may stand out as separate events not preceded by definite causes, and which may have occurred as they did or in any other way, or which may not have occurred at all, like a meteor falling, or lightning striking or not striking a house. To one who understands karma, the existence of accident and chance, if used either in the sense of the breaking of law or as something without a cause, is impossible. All facts which come within our experience and which seem to go against the ordinarily known laws or to be without cause, are explained according to law—when the connecting threads are traced back to their preceding and respective causes.

An accident is one incident in a circle of events. The accident stands out as a separate thing which one is unable to connect with the other incidents which make up the circle of events. He may be able to trace some of the causes preceding and effects following an “accident,” but as he is unable to see how and why it occurred he attempts to account for it by naming it accident or attributing it to chance. Whereas, beginning from a background of past knowledge, one’s motive gives the direction and causes him to think when he is faced by certain other thoughts or conditions of life, action follows his thought and action produces results, and the results complete the circle of events which was made up of: knowledge, motive, thoughts and actions. An accident is a visible segment of an otherwise invisble circle of events which corresponds with and which is analogous to the result or occurrence of a previous circle of events, for each circle of events does not end in itself, but is the beginning of another circle of events. Thus the whole of one’s life is made up of a long spiral chain of innumerable circles of events. An accident—or any occurrence, for the matter of that—is only one of the results of action from a chain of events and we call it accident because it occurred unexpectedly or without present intention, and because we could not see the other facts which preceded it as cause. Chance is the choice of an action from the variety of factors entering into the action. All is due to one’s own knowledge, motive, thought, desire and action—which is his karma.

For instance, two men are travelling on a steep ledge of rocks. By placing his foot on an insecure rock one of them loses his footing and is precipitated into a ravine. His companion, going to the rescue, finds the body below, mangled, among rocks which show a streak of golden ore. The death of one impoverishes his family and causes failure to those with whom he is associated in business, but by the same fall the other discovers a gold mine which is the source of his amassing wealth. Such an occurrence is said to be an accident, which brought sorrow and poverty to the family of the deceased, failure to his associates in business, and brought good luck to his comrade whose wealth was gained by chance.

According to the law of karma there is no accident or chance connected with such an occurrence. Each of the events is in accordance with the working out of the law and is connected with causes which were generated beyond the immediate limits of the field of perception. Therefore, men not able to follow these causes and the ramifications and bearings of their effects into the present and future, call their result accident and chance.

Whether the poverty should awaken self-reliance in those who had been dependent on the deceased and bring out faculties and principles not to be seen while they were dependent on another; or whether, in the opposite case, those dependent should become disconsolate and disheartened, give up to despair and become paupers, would depend entirely upon the past of those who were concerned; or whether the opportunity of riches is taken advantage of by the one who discovered the gold and he improves the opportunity of wealth to better the conditions of himself and others, to relieve suffering, to endow hospitals, or to start and support educational work and scientific investigations for the good of the people; or whether, on the other hand, he does none of this, but uses his wealth, and the power and influence which it gives him, for the oppression of others; or whether he should become a debauchee, encouraging others to lives of dissipation, bringing disgrace, misery and ruin to himself and others, all this would be according to the law of karma, which would have been determined by all of those concerned.

Those who speak of chance and accident, and at the same time speak of and acknowledge such a thing as law, cut themselves off mentally from the abstract world of knowledge and limit their mental processes to the things which relate to the sensuous world of gross physical matter. Seeing but the phenomena of nature and the actions of men, they are unable to follow that which connects and causes the phenomena of nature and the actions of men, because that which connects causes with effects and effects with causes cannot be seen. The connection is made by and in the worlds which are unseen, and therefore denied, by those who reason from physical facts alone. Nevertheless, these worlds do exist. The action of a man which brings about either some bad or beneficial result may be observed, and some results following therefrom may be traced, by the observer and reasoner of and from facts in the physical world; but because he cannot see the connection of that action with its antecedent motive, thought and action in the past (however distant), he attempts to account for the action or event by saying that it was an impulse or accident. Neither of these words explains the occurrence; by neither of these words can the material reasoner define or explain it, even according to the law or laws which he acknowledges to be operative in the world.

In the case of the two travellers, had the deceased used care in the selection of his path he would not have fallen, though his death, as it was required by the law of karma, would merely have been postponed. If his companion had not descended the perilous path, in the hope of rendering assistance he would not have found the means by which he acquired his wealth. Yet, as wealth was to be his, as the result of his past works, even if fear should have caused him to refuse to descend to the aid of his comrade, he would have only deferred his prosperity. By not letting pass an opportunity, which duty presented, he hastened his good karma.

Karma is the wonderful, beautiful and harmonious law which prevails throughout the worlds. It is wonderful when contemplated, and the unknown and unaccounted for occurrences are seen and explained by the continuity of motive, thought, action, and results, all according to law. It is beautiful because the connections between motive and thought, thought and action, action and results, are perfect in their proportions. It is harmonious because all of the parts and factors in the working out of the law, though often appearing opposed to each other when seen apart, are made to fulfill the law by adjustment to each other, and in establishing harmonious relations and results out of many, near and distant, opposite and inharmonious parts and factors.

Karma adjusts the mutually interdependent acts of the billions of men who have died and lived and who will die and live again. Though dependent and interdependent on others of his kind, each human being is a “lord of karma.” We are all lords of karma because each one is the ruler of his own fate.

The sum total of the thoughts and actions of a life are carried over by the real I, the individuality, to the next life, and to the next, and from one world system to another, until the ultimate degree of perfection has been reached and the law of one’s own thoughts and actions, the law of karma, has been satisfied and fulfilled.

The operation of karma is concealed from the minds of men because their thoughts are centered on things which relate to their personality and its attendant sensations. These thoughts form a wall through which the mental vision cannot pass to trace that which connects the thought, with the mind and desire from which it springs, and to understand the actions in the physical world as they are born into the physical world from the thoughts and desires of men. Karma is concealed from the personality, but is clearly known to the individuality, which individuality is the god from whom the personality originates and of which it is a reflection and a shadow.

The details of the workings of karma will remain concealed so long as man refuses to think and act justly. When man will think and act justly and fearlessly, irrespective of praise or blame, then he will learn to appreciate the principle and follow the workings of the law of karma. He will then strengthen, train and sharpen his mind so that it will pierce the wall of thoughts surrounding his personality and be able to trace the action of his thoughts, from the physical through the astral and through the mental to the spiritual and back again into the physical; then he will prove karma to be all that is claimed for it by those who know what it is.

The presence of the karma of humanity and of which presence people are aware, though they are not fully conscious of it, is the source from which comes the vague, instinctual or intuitional feeling that justice rules the world. This is inherent in every human being and because of it, man fears the “wrath of God” and asks for “mercy.”

The wrath of God is the accumulation of wrong actions performed intentionally or ignorantly which, like Nemesis, pursue, ready to overtake; or hang like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall; or like a lowering thunder cloud, are ready to precipitate themselves as soon as the conditions are ripe and circumstances will allow. This feeling of the karma of humanity is shared by all its members, each member thereof having a sense also of his particular Nemesis and thunder cloud, and this feeling causes human beings to try to propitiate some unseen being.

The mercy which is sought for by man is that he will have his just deserts removed or postponed for a time. Removal is impossible, but the karma of one’s actions may be held back for a time, until the suppliant for mercy is able to meet his karma. Mercy is asked by those who feel themselves too weak or too overcome by fear to ask that the law be fulfilled at once.

Besides the feeling of “wrath” or the “vengeance” of God and the desire for “mercy,” there is an inherent belief or faith in man that somewhere in the world—notwithstanding all the seeming injustice which is so apparent in our every-day life—there is, though unseen and not understood, a law of justice. This inherent faith in justice is inborn in the spirit of man, but requires some crisis in which man is thrown upon himself by the seeming injustice of others to call it forth. The inherent feeling of justice is caused by the underlying intuition of immortality which persists in the heart of man, in spite of his agnosticism, materialism and the adverse conditions which he is made to face.

The intuition of immortality is the underlying knowledge that he is able and will live through the seeming injustice which is imposed upon him, and that he will live to right the wrongs which he has done. The sense of justice in the heart of man is the one thing which saves him from cringing for the favor of a wrathful god, and suffering long the whims and patronage of an ignorant, greedy, power-loving priest. This sense of justice makes a man of man and enables him to look fearlessly in another’s face, even though conscious that he must suffer for his wrong. These feelings, of the wrath or the vengeance of god, the desire for mercy, and the faith in the eternal justice of things, are evidence of the presence of the karma of humanity and of a recognition of its existence, though the recognition is sometimes unconscious or remote.

As man thinks and acts and lives according to his thoughts, modified or accentuated by the conditions which prevail, and as like a man, so a nation or whole civilization grows up and acts according to its thoughts and ideals and the prevailing cyclic influences, which are the results of thoughts held still longer ago, so also does humanity as a whole and the worlds in which it is and has been, live and develop from childhood to the highest mental and spiritual attainments, according to this law. Then, like a man, or a race, humanity as a whole, or rather all those members of a humanity who have not reached the ultimate perfection which it is the purpose of that particular manifestation of worlds to reach, die. The personalities and all that relates to personality pass away and the forms of the sensuous worlds cease to exist, but the essence of the world remains, and the individualities as humanity remain, and all pass into a condition of rest similar to that into which man passes when, after the efforts of a day, he puts his body to rest and retires into that mysterious state or realm which men call sleep. With man comes, after sleep, an awakening which calls him to the duties of the day, to the care and preparation of his body that he may perform the duties of the day, which are the result of his thoughts and actions of the previous day or days. Like man, the universe with its worlds and men awakens from its period of sleep or rest; but, unlike man who lives from day to day, it has no physical body or bodies in which it perceives the actions of the immediate past. It must call forth the worlds and bodies through which to act.

That which lives after the death of the man are his works, as the embodiment of his thoughts. The sum total of the thoughts and ideals of a world’s humanity is the karma which lasts, which awakens and calls forth all invisible things into visible activity.

Each world or series of worlds comes into existence, and forms and bodies are developed according to law, which law is determined by the same humanity which had existed in the world or worlds preceding the new manifestation. This is the law of eternal justice by which humanity as a whole, as well as each individual unit, is required to enjoy the fruits of past labors and suffer the consequences of wrong action, exactly as prescribed by the past thoughts and actions, which make the law for the present conditions. Each unit of humanity determines his individual karma and, as a unit together with all other units, enacts and carries out the law by which humanity as a whole is governed.

At the close of any one great period of the manifestation of a world system, each individual unit of humanity is progressed toward the ultimate degree of perfection which is the purpose of that evolution, but some units have not reached the full degree, and so they pass into that state of rest corresponding to what we know as sleep. At the coming again of the new day of the world system each of the units awakens in his proper time and condition and continues his experiences and work where left off in the previous day or world.

The difference between the awakening of an individual human being from day to day, life to life, or from world system to world system, is a difference in time only; but there is no difference in the principle of the action of the law of karma. New bodies and personalities have to be built from world to world just as garments are put on by the body from day to day. The difference is in the texture of the bodies and of the clothes, but the individuality or I remains the same. The law requires that the garment put on to-day be the one bargained and arranged for on a previous day. The one who selected it, bargained for it and arranged the environment and condition in which the garment should be worn, is the I, the individuality, who is the maker of the law, under which he is forced by his own action to accept that which he has provided for himself.

According to the knowledge of the thoughts and actions of the personality, which is held in the memory of the ego, the ego forms the plan and determines the law according to which the future personality must act. As the thoughts of a lifetime are held in the memory of the ego so the thoughts and actions of humanity as a whole are retained in the memory of humanity. As there is a real ego which persists after the death of a personality so there is also an ego of humanity which persists after the life or one period of the manifestation of a humanity. This ego of humanity is a larger individuality. Each of its individual units is necessary to it and none can be removed nor done away with because the ego of humanity is one and indivisible, no part of which can be destroyed or lost. In the memory of the ego of humanity, the thoughts and actions of all of the individual units of humanity are retained, and it is according to this memory that the plan for the new world system is determined. This is the karma of the new humanity.

Ignorance extends throughout the worlds until full and complete knowledge is attained. Sin and ignorant action differ in degree. As, for instance, one may sin, or act ignorantly, by drinking from a fever-infected pool, pass the water to a friend who drinks also, and both may suffer the remainder of their lives as the result of such ignorant action; or one may plot and deliberately steal large sums from poor investors; or another may create war, murder, destroy cities and spread desolation over an entire country; still another may induce people to believe him to be the representative of God and God incarnate, through which belief he may cause them to forswear reason, give themselves up to excesses and follow such practices as will lead to moral and spiritual harm. Sin, as ignorant action, applies to each case, but the penalties which are the results of the action differ according to the degree of the ignorance. One who has knowledge of the human laws which govern society and uses his knowledge to harm others, will suffer more keenly and over a longer period because his knowledge makes him responsible, and sin, wrong action, is greater as his ignorance has decreased.

So one of the worst sins, for one who knows or ought to know, is to willfully deprive another of his individual right of choice, to weaken him by hiding from him the law of justice, to induce him to give up his will, to encourage or make him depend either for pardon, spiritual power, or immortality on another, instead of depending on the law of justice and the results of his own work.

Sin either is wrong action, or the refusal to do right; both are followed by an inherent dread of the just law. The story of original sin is not a lie; it is a fable which conceals, yet tells, a truth. It has to do with the procreation and reincarnation of early humanity. The original sin was the refusal of one of the three classes of the Sons of Universal Mind, or God, to reincarnate, to take up its cross of flesh and procreate lawfully so that other races could incarnate in their proper order. This refusal was against the law, their karma of the previous period of manifestation which they had taken part in. Their refusal to reincarnate when it came their turn, allowed less progressed entities to enter the bodies prepared for them and which those lower entities were unable to make good use of. Through ignorance, the lower entities mated with types of the animals. This, the misuse of the procreative act, was the “original sin,” in its physical sense. The result of the unlawful procreative acts of lower humanity was to give to the human race the tendency to unlawful procreation—which brings sin, ignorance, wrong action and death, into the world.

When the minds saw that their bodies had been taken possession of by lower races, or entities less than the human, because they had not used the bodies, they knew that all had sinned, acted wrongly; but whereas the lower races had acted ignorantly they, the minds, had refused to do their duty, hence theirs the greater sin because of the knowledge of their wrong. So the minds hastened to get possession of the bodies which they had refused, but found that they were already dominated and controlled by unlawful lust. The penalty of the original sin of the Sons of Universal Mind who would not reincarnate and procreate is, that they are now dominated by that which they refused to govern. When they could govern they would not, and now that they would govern they cannot.

The proof of that ancient sin is present with every man in the sorrow and agony of mind that follows the act of mad desire which he is driven, even against his reason, to commit.

Karma is not a blind law, though karma may be created blindly by one who acts ignorantly. Nevertheless, the result of his action, or karma, is administered intelligently without favor or prejudice. The operation of karma is mechanically just. Though often ignorant of the fact, each human being and all creatures and intelligences in the universe have each his appointed function to perform, and each is a part in the great machinery for the working out of the law of karma. Each has his place, whether in the capacity of a cogwheel, a pin, or a gauge. This is so whether he or it be conscious or unconscious of the fact. However insignificant a part one may seem to play, nevertheless, when he acts he starts the entire machinery of karma into operation involving all other parts.

Accordingly as one performs well the part which he has to fill, so he becomes aware of the working of the law; then he takes a more important part. When proved to be just, having freed himself from the consequences of his own thoughts and actions, he is fitted to be entrusted with the administration of the karma of a nation, race, or world.

There are intelligences who act as the general agents of the law of karma in its action through the worlds. These intelligences are by different religious systems called: lipika, kabiri, cosmocratores and archangels. Even in their high station, these intelligences obey the law by doing it. They are parts in the machinery of karma; they are parts in the administration of the great law of karma, as much as the tiger who strikes down and devours a child, or as the dull and sodden drunkard who works or murders for a pittance. The difference is that one acts ignorantly, whereas, the other acts intelligently and because it is just. All are concerned in the carrying out of the law of karma, for there is unity through the universe and karma preserves the unity in its relentlessly just operation.

We may call on these great intelligences by such names as we prefer, but they answer us only when we know how to call upon them and then they can only answer to the call which we know how to give and according to the nature of the call. They can show no favor nor dislike, even if we have knowledge and the right to call upon them. They take notice of and call upon men when men desire to act justly, unselfishly and for the good of all. When such men are ready, the intelligent agents of karma may require of them to serve in the capacity for which their thought and work has fitted them. But when men are so called upon by great intelligences it is not with the idea of favor, or any personal interest in them, or with the idea of reward. They are called upon to work in a larger and clearer field of action because they are qualified and because it is just that they should be workers with the law. There is no sentiment or emotion in their election.

In the September “Word” karma will be dealt with in its application to physical life.—Ed.

(To be continued)