[Page 1] OF all the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy now given in the West, those relating to Karma and Re-incarnation have received the most favourable reception at the hands of the public; the latter is not our principal subject tonight, although it is impossible to exclude it as the chief method of working of Karma. This, as said in The Secret Doctrine, "is a word of many meanings, and has a special term for almost every one of its aspects. It means as a synonym of sin, the performance of some action for the attainment of an object of worldly, hence selfish, desire, which cannot fail to be hurtful to somebody else. Karman is action, the cause"; and Karma again is "the law of ethical causation; the effect of an act produced egotistically, when the great law of harmony depends on altruism".[The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 302] To treat Karma as general action and reaction, would necessitate dealing with the whole universe; needless to say we shall not attempt that task tonight, and it will quite suffice to now confine ourselves to the moral aspect of Karma alone.
The conception of laws defined as "an established sequence of material phenomena", is universally admitted in physical science as ruling the visible world, and in modern philosophy, as we shall presently see, this idea of laws is accepted and applied, although with small success, to the ethical world. It is, I think, precisely because the Esoteric Philosophy can demonstrate a logical and scientific system of ethics that its teachings thereon have received the attention above indicated. It can be asserted with certainty that no progress can be made either in the moral, intellectual, or physical worlds, without a similar sequence of cause or effect. Supposing, for instance, I am a chemist, and discover by careful experiments in my laboratory that atmospheric air consists of a mechanical mixture of gases, twenty-one per cent, of oxygen and seventy-nine per cent, of nitrogen; tomorrow I find by exactly the same experiments that the proportions now materially differ from what they were yesterday. You will at once see that under such conditions my time has been wholly wasted, and no knowledge whatever acquired. To go farther, life being adjustment, as Herbert Spencer says, therefore the violent shifting of the ordinary factors of existence would render the physical world uninhabitable to beings like ourselves. Remembering then the ancient maxim, "As above so below", the reign of law must be posited in the moral and intellectual worlds, since it is seen in the physical. Obviously, chaos could not exist on the superior [Page 2] planes of life, and law and order rule the lower. With reference, however, to what was said before, I must not be supposed to hold that physical conditions are unchangeable, because if that were so, the continuity of progress would be destroyed, therefore Professor Huxley is right in considering the present laws of existence as nothing more than working hypotheses, true for the present, but not always presenting the same aspects to the human consciousness. In fact, according to Esoteric Philosophy, mind having to acquire experiences on the material plane, has to pass unmoved through all the slowly changing phases of the physical world. Many years ago George Combe knew something of this truth, and fought hard against the theologians of his day to establish the supremacy of law in the moral, intellectual, and physical worlds. He knew well that in order to progress man must understand external Nature and act in harmony with her laws, and invents a fable in the Constitution of Man, which I will now quote, so admirably does it illustrate the case: —
" It happened in a remote period, that a slater slipped from the roof of a high building, in consequence of a stone of the ridge having given way as he walked upright along it; he fell to the ground, had a leg broken, and was otherwise severely bruised. As he lay in bed suffering severe pain from his misfortune, he addressed Jupiter in these words:
" 'O Jupiter, thou art a cruel god; for thou hast made me so frail and imperfect a being, that I had not faculties to perceive my danger, nor power to arrest my fall when its occurrence showed how horrible an evil awaited me. It were better for me that I had never been.'
"Jupiter, graciously bending his ear, heard the address, and answered, 'Of what law of mine dost thou complain ?'
"'Of the law of gravitation', replied the slater, 'by its operation, the step which my foot made upon the stone, which, unknown to me, was loose, precipitated me to the earth, and crushed my body, never calculated to resist such violence'.
" 'I restore thee to thy station on the roof', said Jupiter; 'I heal thy bruises, and to convince thee of my benevolence, I suspend the law of gravitation as to thy body and all that is related to it; art thou now content ?'
" ' The slater, in deep emotion, offered up gratitude and thanks, and expressed the profoundest reverence for so just and beneficent a deity. In the very act of doing so, he found himself in perfect health, erect upon the ridge of the roof; and, rejoicing, gazed around. He endeavoured to walk along the ridge to arrive at the spot which he intended to repair. But the law of gravitation was suspended, and his body did not press upon the roof. There being no pressure there was no resistance, and his legs moved backwards and forwards in the air without any progress being made by his body. Alarmed at this occurrence, he stooped, seized his trowel, lifted it full of mortar, and made the motion of throwing it on the slates; but the mortar, freed from the trowel, hung in mid-air — the law of gravitation was suspended as to it also. Nearly frantic with terror at such unexpected novelties, he endeavoured to descend in order to seek relief; but the law of gravitation was suspended as to his body, and it hung poised at the level of the ridge, like a balloon in the air. He tried to fling himself down, to get rid of the uneasy sensation, but his body floated erect and would not [Page 3] move downwards. In an agony of consternation he called once more upon Jupiter. The god, ever kind and compassionate, heard his cry and pitied his distress; and asked:
" 'What evil hath befallen thee now, that thou art not yet content ? Have I not suspended, at thy request, the law which made thee fall ? Now thou art safe from bruises, and from broken limbs; why, then, dost thou still complain ?'
" The slater answered, 'In deep humiliation, I acknowledge my ignorance and presumption; restore me to my couch of pain, but give me back the benefits of thy law of gravitation.'
" ' Thy wish is granted,' said Jupiter, in reply.
" The slater in a moment lay on his bed of sickness, endured the castigation of the organic law, was restored to health, and again mounted to the roof that caused his recent pain. He thanked Jupiter anew, from the depths of his soul, for the law of gravitation with its numberless benefits; and applied his faculties to study and obey it during the remainder of his life." [The Constitution of Man, p 85]
We see from this, that it is idle for man to complain of the action of the physical laws of nature, and " the Occultists, who regard physical nature as a bundle of most varied illusions on the plane of deceptive perceptions; who recognise in every pain and suffering but the necessary pangs of incessant procreation: a series of stages toward an ever-growing perfectibility, which is visible in the silent influence of never-erring Karma, or abstract nature — the Occultists, we say, view the great mother otherwise".[The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, p 475] Before we pass on to the consideration of the moral aspect of Karma, as shown in the Esoteric Philosophy, it will be desirable to briefly review the ethical teachings of the Christian Churches, and the conceptions of modern moral philosophy, in order to contrast them effectually with the Theosophical ideas. Let us begin with Theology.
The Churches have not brought forward their ethical teachings in such a form that a scientific and philosophical analysis can be readily made. But it will be doing the Christian statements no injustice if we predicate of them, that they have generally placed beliefs in sundry doctrines first, and moral conduct next. To do this, however, is to altogether destroy the idea of law, as scientifically defined, in the moral world, by introducing foreign and uncertain elements into it. That this is the case we shall plainly see later on. Again, it is a general Christian postulate, that there is an extra-cosmic Deity or personal God, whose will man must obey. But this conception is thoroughly unphilosophical for this reason: such a Deity being separate from the Universe is necessarily finite, the Universe being one thing and God another. The utterances of a limited and therefore fallible Deity, if such a being is thinkable, especially on ethical subjects, must count as opinions only, and could be in no sense imperative commands to men. Once we assume that belief in certain doctrines is necessary for salvation, we open the door to religious persecutions. [Page 4] Humanity has to thank the belief that the moral guide of man is outside himself, for almost endless religious wars and the seas of blood spilt therein. For all attempts to make the human race universally recognise one form of religion, or one code of ethics, must of necessity fail; humanity is obviously included between the two extremes of the highly civilized races and the lowest barbarians, in other words mankind is enormously differentiated, and therefore in all stages of development. That, for instance, which is orthodox in London is blasphemy in Constantinople, the virtues of some races are considered to be vices in others, and even in any one community persons are found differing widely in their conceptions of morality, until we come down to that class whom Dr. Carpenter in his Human Physiology calls the morally insane. These considerations absolutely prevent our seeking for moral guidance outside ourselves, and as only two sources are possible for this, without or within, the latter alone remains to be considered. We may now deal with the ethical conceptions of Modern Philosophy.
In the most prominent school of thought in our time, the present standard of ethical conduct is considered to be due to the evolutionary experiences of humanity; in Professor Fisk's words,"Inquiry will result in the conviction that the moral sense is not ultimate, but derivative, and that it has been built up out of slowly organised experiences of pleasures and pains". [Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, Vol 2, p. 321] I need not consume our time tonight by making an elaborate criticism of this position, but will confine myself to bringing forward one or two important objections to it. In the first place, it cannot be shown that our present humanity derives its ethical knowledge from custom, etc. For history tells us that the progress of humanity is by no means in a straight line, we see that great nations rise, flourish, decay, and often die, leaving nothing but a few ruins and fragments of literature for posterity behind them. How much benefit, for example, have we derived ethically from the high and complex civilisation of the ancient Egyptians ? therefore the moral heredity theory falls to the ground. But even supposing it to be true, a further and weightier objection remains; according to this system humanity is always improving, generation after generation, until, in the course of time, a race of men will inhabit the earth exhibiting, perhaps, perfect qualities compared with ourselves today. But this idea appears to me to be immoral in itself, and therefore in no sense worthy of being considered as a system of ethics, because what is the end to be attained? in order that a mere remnant of the human family shall some day in the far future stand on a lofty pinnacle of goodness and knowledge, myriads of men must be more or less sacrificed during the process. A strange philosophy this, for mark, not even the few named will survive the solar [Page 5] cataclysm, which according to science awaits the earth; all the sufferings and miseries of humanity, to say nothing of the other kingdoms of Nature, will have been for nothing, chaos and ancient night will ultimately reign supreme despite it all. The error in all this arises from taking the outer physical man as the real entity, disregarding Krishna's statement, "Never did I not exist, nor you, nor those rulers of men; nor will any one of us hereafter cease to be". [Bhagavat Gita, C. II.] So far then, neither Church Christianity, nor Modern Philosophy has yielded to our enquiries a reasonable and satisfactory method of ethics, and we may now turn to the ideas of the Old Wisdom Religion on the subject.
"Karma-Nemesis is the synonym of Providence, minus design, goodness and every other finite attribute and qualification, so unphilosophically attributed to the latter. 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 re-adjusted. For the only degree of Karma — an eternal and immutable degree — is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as 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". [The Secret Doctrine, Vol I. p 643]
According to this then, Harmony is the Law of the Universe and Discord necessarily evil, therefore the task that now remains before us tonight is to examine these principles in detail and discover their bearing with regard to man. Hitherto we have often mentioned the terms morality and ethics without being able to get a clear idea in the mind as to how they arise in the scheme of things, but I hope to soon now show their position in the evolution of man. In Theosophical books the Karma attaching to acts is described as analogous to the law seen on the physical plane, expressed in the formula, that action and reaction are equal and opposite, the force always coming back to the centre from which it came.
But it has been objected to me by a student that a force started in a limitless Universe could not come back to its starting point. The answer to this is that all forces are governed by the law of rhythm of motion; in Professor Fisk's words, "the leaves, the branches, the very trees themselves, shivering in the gusts, the waving of the blades of grass, and of the stalks in the cornfield, the ripple marks on the river's bed, the vibration following the propeller's rotation in a screw steamer. In the currents of commerce, production and consumption, or in the tabulated diagrams of prices, births, marriages, deaths, disease, crime and pauperism, the [Page 6] rhythm always appears". This law is also shown in the circling of the stars, the ebb and flow of the tides, and the succession of days and nights. All forces then move in cycles or circles, and therefore must return to the point of departure, or in other words, those who set causes in motion, must inevitably experience the effects on themselves.
It will be well to now inquire in what direction the Law of Harmony now works, and to do this will necessitate a brief examination of the process of Cosmic Involution and Evolution, set forth in Esoteric Philosophy. At the outset of a great life cycle, or Day of Brahmâ as it is called in the East, "the Universe passes out of its homogeneous subjectivity on to the first plane of manifestation, of which planes there are seven, we are taught. With each plane it becomes more dense and material until it reaches this, our plane, on which the only world approximately known and understood in its physical composition by science, is the planetary or Solar system". [The Key to Theosophy, p, 85] This is to say, putting it in the language of modern philosophy, that the homogeneous Essence at the base of things differentiates, assuming more and more complex forms as it descends. Now, when this Cosmic process, or the outbreathing of Brahm, has reached the lowest point, or accomplished half of the cycle of objective existence, the reverse action begins, and the inbreathing sets in, or Unity instead of differentiation is now the law, and this process must continue until homogeneity is again reached, plus experience. As we have passed the lowest point of the cycle, our governing Karma is now Unity. Such then is the law. I may now state that —
"Karma may be of three sorts, (a) presently operative in this life through the appropriate instruments; (b) that which is being made or stored up to be exhausted in the future; (c) Karma held over from past life or lives and not operating yet because inhibited by inappropriateness of the instrument in use by the Ego, or by the force of Karma now operating . "[The Path, March 1893, “Aphorisms on Karma”, p.366]
We are therefore all engaged in now generating causes, the consequences of which will be experienced in the future, and experiencing now the effects of the causes we have set in motion in the past, and also must have stored up Karma, not yet precipitated for want of an appropriate vehicle: for it is taught that, "In the life of worlds, races, nations, and individuals, Karma cannot act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its action". A question may here occur to some of you, and one which is very important, it is this. Must the effect of Karma generated in the past, be fully experienced now or in the future ? The answer to this is, "The effects may be counteracted or mitigated by the thoughts and acts of oneself or of another, and then the resulting effects represent the combination and interaction of the whole number of causes involved in [Page 7] producing the effects." Therefore, as stated in a recent number of the Vahan, one may pay into the Karmic bank in copper, so to speak, and draw out in gold. It would indeed be an extraordinary thing if we could not balance up or reduce our bad Karma with the opposite kind of thoughts, words and actions. But there is a difficulty in the quotation just given, that requires clearing up.
How can Karmic effects be counteracted by the efforts of oneself or of another? I think the reply will be, that as no single individual can alone generate Karma, without the participation to a greater or lesser extent of others in the act, so any of those thus concerned can set in motion counterbalancing causes. You will remember it is said in the Key that: —
"It is held as a truth among Theosophists, that the interdependence of humanity is the cause of what is called Distributive Karma, and it is this law which affords the solution to the great question of collective suffering and its relief. It is an occult law, moreover, that no man can rise superior to his individual failings, without lifting, be it ever so little, the whole body of which he is an integral part. In the same way, no one can sin, nor suffer the effects of sin, alone. In reality, there is no such thing as 'separateness'; and the nearest approach to that selfish state, which the laws of life permit, is in the intent or motive". [Key to Theosophy, p. 203]
If any of you will examine the simplest actions that you do, you will perceive the truth of the foregoing statement; you will always find that the action or actions of others has affected your own, as regards time and place, if in no other particular. Let us now further develop the idea of this law of unity, or harmony in Nature.
Physical science asserts that I cannot move my little finger without disturbing every atom in the universe, and if this statement was untrue, there would be no cosmos, but chaos. But, as is astronomically shown, the Universe is connected in all its parts and is governed by certain common laws. Coming down to the physical bodies of men, we see that these are all connected together so intimately, that in cases of disease, medical science insists upon the isolation of patients, and the observance of strict sanitary measures. One case of cholera in an East End slum is felt to threaten the whole city, and if unity is thus seen to be the law on the plane of physical existence, with how much more force will this law operate on planes of higher and finer order ? For it is easily seen that starting from homogeneity, as we do, the planes of being farthest from this will be the grossest and most separate in form, whilst the nearest will necessarily be the finest and least differentiated. It is thus evident that there is good reason for the statement made in Theosophical writings, that action on the spiritual and mental planes is much more potent, both for good or ill, than force exerted in the physical or grosser worlds. Experimental psychology [Page 8] well exhibits the power of thought on its own plane, and its subtle nature, traversing, as in clairvoyance, seas and continents, swifter than light, and enabling an operator to control even the heart beats of his subject, in the magnetic sleep.
In a very complex and difficult subject like the one we are discussing, it is almost impossible to keep in a straight course, so numerous and necessary are the digressions in which we may indulge in order to illustrate it, but let us now return to an examination of the basis of ethics or morals, and endeavour to get a clear idea of the moral aspect of Karma. To do this will necessitate our return to a point, previously partly discussed, in our view of the ethical teachings of modern Christianity. We saw then that the idea that moral law proceeds from a deity external to man was illogical, and could not receive the sanction of sound philosophy; hence the ethical criterion could only proceed from within. But here we come to the all-important question, that, granting that the impulse to do right and avoid doing wrong, manifests itself as the voice of the conscience in man, yet what is this in itself, and why should it be obeyed ?
Dealing with external Nature, we just now saw that notwithstanding the evils which appeared on the surface to attend the process, that man has no option, assuming that he desires to preserve his physical existence, but to obey and act in accordance with the physical laws he sees working around him, life being adjustment, and that the end attained by so doing was the gaining of experience and progress. So far this is clear, but we now come into contact with a very different set of factors, in dealing with the internal problem for its solution, and in order to see this properly, it will be best to set forth the distinctions between the two in a thorough manner, taking the external one first. If, for instance, I throw my physical body over a high precipice, the effect of the law of gravitation on it, will be such as to put an end to my physical existence; in this case we see that cause and effect are not separated in time, the latter follows closely on the former, and can be directly connected therewith as a certain consequence. The law of Karma in its physical aspect is obvious here. On the other hand, supposing I commit an action which, although highly disapproved of by my conscience, and condemned openly by public opinion, yet is practically ignored by the latter — there are many such cases, as we all know, in our present civilization, unfortunately for it — then, there being no fear of human law, or social ostracism, I am apparently free, unless it can be shown how, and in what way, every action, no matter what its character, must be followed by its appropriate result. There is, however, no difficulty in arriving at a theoretical judgment in this case, for it is a rooted principle in the mind, founded, doubtless, on millenniums of experience, like all other innate ideas, that causes must not [Page 9] only produce effects, but effects adequate to, and commensurate with their origins. But the practical question still remains to be answered: " Here are rich wicked men who die in their beds, happy, with a shrine at the end of it", [Report of Proceedings, The Theosophical Congress, World’s Fair of 1893, p. 153] and yet Karma is posited as “an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe to restore equilibrium, and it operates incessantly". [“Aphorisms on Karma”, Path, India, 1893, p 366] The answer to this is "the apparent stoppage of this restoration of equilibrium is due to the necessary adjustment of disturbance at some other spot, place, or focus which is visible only to the Yogi, to the Sage, or the perfect Seer: there is therefore no stoppage, but only a hiding from view".
According to this, then, the apparent disseverance between cause and effect only takes place in time, and we shall be better able to appreciate the significance of this statement when we come to an analysis of the relations between space and time forms, and the mind, later on. Philosophically considered, Karma cannot be subject to phenomenal time, because it is, itself, the producer of all time forms. Thus Krishna says: — "What goeth forth from me, causing all life to live, is Karma called: and manifested in divided forms". [Song Celestial, page 67] It is also taught: — " In the life of worlds, races, nations, and individuals, Karma cannot act unless there is an appropriate instrument provided for its action: and until such appropriate action is found, that Karma related to it remains unexpended", [“Aphorisms on Karma”, Path, India. 1893, p 367] Purely physical Karma, then, differs from other kinds in the fact that, the immediate cause being always started in the physical world, a vehicle is always thus provided for the appropriate effect, and therefore our brain mind is generally able to note the connection between the two. But we should not forget that Eastern metaphysics holds that effects do not really succeed causes, but only appear to do so when measured in physical time: cause and effect being one, on the superphysical planes of existence. All physical actions, however, have obviously their subjective side in the world of thought, but in addition to these, there are those mental actions or thoughts, which arise and are exhausted on their own plane alone, and as all the planes are closely interwoven, moral or mental Karma can be exhausted on their own or any lower planes according to circumstances. From these considerations it logically follows that no one except a 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". [Page 10]It may be now objected that although I have theoretically posited the existence of superphysical planes of life, yet the idea has not been reasonably demonstrated; this, however, will present no real philosophical difficulty, as I am about to show.
"For, inasmuch as the phenomena of our plane are the creation of the perceiving Ego — the modifications of its own subjectivity — all the states of matter representing the aggregate of perceived objects, can have but a relative and purely phenomenal existence for the children of our plane. As the modern idealists would say, the co-operation of subject and object results in the sense-object or phenomena". [The Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, page 329]
Hence the existence of an inner Ego or superior Consciousness in man is proved, and we shall presently see what an important bearing this fact has on the moral problem we are discussing.
If at the outset tonight, I touched on causes and effects in the sensual world, or physical Karma, alone, without reference to any moral or mental considerations, it was not, as I just now observed, because these questions can be thus separated, but merely to obtain an unassailable base in the lowest world, and reason upwards from it, as in this case effects and their immediate causes are a matter of common experience, and therefore undoubted, but the ethical problem per se now confronts us and must be solved.
It has been just proved that according to philosophy a metaphysical man or inner Ego exists, and as we all know that conscience exists, we may [Page 11] conclude that these are different terms for the same truth, but as Du Prel observes: —
"The question is not as to the existence of a conscience, but as to the duty of obeying it; not how moral development has proceeded, how social ethics have arisen, but whether there is a metaphysical ethic, whether the moral development of mankind, which might just as easily have been a false development, is a progress, and has its ground in the ethical significance of the world. For the monistic doctrine of the soul, the moral imperative comes ultimately from the transcendental subject. [Metaphysical Man]We can quite agree with Du Prel's foregoing remarks that if the metaphysical man, or Ego, was a being quite separate from the personal man, then there would be no necessity for the latter to obey the will of the former, although it assumed the form of the voice of conscience. But
"Thus the subject ceases to be foreign, but as authority remains; and even though proceeding from our own subject, it is still not to be presupposed as petitio principiii. There remains, as before, the question how such a conflict of two wills in us is possible, and of the obligation to obey the transcendental will. The existence of a conflict presents no difficulty; the situation of a pre-existing subject, a member of the transcendental order of things, is so thoroughly different from that of its transient phenomenal form in the world of sense, that a difference in the directions of the wills must result of' itself. If now the subject, by reason of its better acquaintance with things metaphysical, appears in a world of moral significance as the better part of us in the voice of conscience, yet must the reverse be likewise possible; the subject also, according to its moral nature, is a product of development; we can therefore by no means ascribe to it a sanctity of nature in opposition to the unholy nature of its earthly phenomenal form. Were the greater morality always on the side of the subject, and were every revolt of the person against the subject already, as such, immoral, then could the terrestrial existence have no educational value, the subject could not be enriched by the moral fruits of this existence, the earthly phenomenal form could not advance it. Our moral consciousness can thus erect itself against the innate dispositions as the higher, and in each of its conquests there is a progress aimed at in a righteous revolt of the person against the subject. So that, if the revolt of person against subject is in the interest of the latter, it then ceases to be immoral'. [Philosophy of Mysticism, Vol. 2, p 297]
"Occultism teaches that physical man is one, but the thinking man septenary, thinking, acting, feeling, and living on seven different states of being or planes of consciousness, and that for all these states and planes the permanent Ego (not the false personality) has a distinct set of senses".[Transactions, Blavatsky Lodge, No.1, p 60]
Confirming this, the phenomena of the magnetic sleep shows that the subject exhibits a more and more extended consciousness as the deeper states are entered, and pursuing this idea logically, we arrive by the reverse process to that we just now employed, when dealing with the starting of the great life cycle — viz., then from above, and now from [Page 12] below — at Universal Mind or the One Supreme Consciousness. As The Secret Doctrine puts it: —
"Cosmic Ideation focused in a principle or upadhi (basis) results as the consciousness of the individual Ego. Its manifestation varies with the degree of upadhi, e.g., through that known as Manas it wells up as mind-consciousness; through the more finely differentiated fabric (sixth state of matter) of the Buddhi, resting on the experience of Manas as its basis — as a stream of spiritual intuition."[The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, page 329]Thus the personal Ego or man is a manifestation in this world of the Supreme Self, the fount of all intelligence in the Universe, whilst the metaphysical or inner Ego is also a manifestation of It on a higher plane; therefore the various principles of man described in Theosophy are all aspects of Atma or the One Life, and obedience on the part of the personal Ego to the voice of conscience is submission to the will of the Supreme Principle, with whom the former is essentially identical. We have now arrived at a true basis for moral conduct, which is the fulfilment of the Law of Harmony or Unity, or action in thorough accordance with all other parts of self, a true brotherhood of man.
It may be well, now, to inquire into the method of Karma, after dealing with the moral principle involved, and try to discover the functions of the personal Ego in relation to the inner man; obviously, the content of the consciousness of the former being confined to the physical world, is extremely small when compared with that of the latter, which has no such limitations, inasmuch as experimental psychology shows that the higher consciousness includes the lower, and also brings forward elements of its own; thus we find that the inner Ego has a measure of space and time quite different from the physical concepts of these appertaining to the Personality or rather, it would be safer to say that the former has no such phenomenal limitations. Now, if there is to be any true progress of humanity at all, the totality of its experiences must be preserved for it in some way, and you will remember that we had to reject the Spencerian philosophy precisely for want of such a medium — it seems, therefore, that exactly such a storehouse so to speak, is furnished for us by this transcendental consciousness, which defies the forms of time and space, and moreover is the organizing principle in us, for —
“The prognosis of somnambulists would not be possible without intuitive knowledge of the laws of the inner life; the prescriptions of somnambulists would be of no value if they did not come from the same subject which accomplished the critical inspection and knew the laws of the development if disease. But all these phenomena would be impossible, were not the transcendental subject at the same time the organizing principle in us”. [Page 13] [ Philosophy of Mysticism, Volume 1, Page 152]
We shall presently see what an important factor this principle is in the relations between the inner and personal Egos. Taking, then, into account the necessity for a permanent memory in man, of the whole of his past, without which there can be no individual or even racial progression, and seeing that the transcendental consciousness provides this memory, the reason why the inner Ego, speaking as the voice of conscience, can guide the personality is apparent. [Here a further and deeper problem presents itself, viz, that of the relations between the Inner Ego and the Divine Ego (Buddhi), but into this I cannot now enter] For even physical science is convinced that man is very old, and according to the Esoteric Philosophy, many of us came on this earth 18,000,000 years ago. No slight experience this. But, as you will see, reincarnation now presents itself as the only method that the Permanent Man possesses, in order to store up all the experiences of this world. Obviously the personal man cannot and does not do this; but if the inner Ego manifests in a series of bodies, becoming in short, a number of persons, on the physical plane, such actual experiences must be acquired and stored up. It now remains to consider under what conditions such manifestations take place, and their relations to phenomenal time and space.
Each personality appears on earth with a character, and various idiosyncrasies, moral, mental and physical; these obviously limit our progress and freedom in every direction, and as objective obstructions, physical bodies, distances, etc., are easily recognised. But we just now saw, that visible or objective nature possessed an invisible or subjective side, therefore by parity of reasoning, all space forms or bodies must also possess their subjective side. In fact this is so, and the subjective side of phenomenal space is time, for the relation between these two is exactly the same as that between matter or force; or phenomenal space and matter are identical, and also force or time, as Du Prel says:
"Matter and force in their disunion, as dead matter and immaterial force, are mere abstractions of the mind, are therefore never in experience found apart, and their apparent dualism is referable to a dualism in our powers of perception, since it pertains to the position of the psycho-physical threshold whether the force side or the material side of the nature of things is perceived, they being always present together, and only distinguishable in thought. Every force acting upon us must thus have its material side, even if it is not sensible to us. What is for us insensible is not, therefore, immaterial".[Philosophy of Mysticism, Vol. 2, page 131] " The more the material side of a thing presents itself to us, as in a block of granite, the more its force side disappears from us, and we then speak of dead matter. The more, on the other hand, the force side emerges, as, for instance, in thought, the more its material side disappears, and we then speak of immaterial forces. But it is quite inadmissible to regard this ideal distinction of force and matter, mind and body, as a real separation, and to hypostasize these two sides of a thing as independent". [Page 14]If therefore, we change our normal state of consciousness, or as Du Prel puts it above, alter the position of the psycho-physical threshold, a new aspect of Nature appears to us, the objective side becomes subjective, and vice versa; thus time would be objective and space subjective under such conditions, and in connection with this matter you will doubtless remember that in Swendenborg's astral journeys, passage from point to point in space was attained by changing states of consciousness, time in this case being objective, and space subjective to his mind.
ant long ago proved that space and time are but the
forms of our normal consciousness, and we have therefore now to consider how the Ego in its personal aspect
surrounds itself with time and space forms, and thus differentiates in consciousness from its transcendental
self, or the inner man. Moral and mental Karma naturally arises from the actions of man in the thought world,
the will, or the great spiritual force belonging to the Ego, acting through desire, moulds and shapes the plastic
substance of the thought plane; then this process is repeated on all the lower planes — the formed matter of each
plane acting as force on the substance of the next lowest — until
a form is thus produced in the physical world. We should not forget, as well understood in modern philosophy,
that man cannot create new ideas, but can only modify and alter pre-existing thought forms, as
Why, therefore, Occult Philosophy considers time cycles of such paramount importance is clear, and we can
also trace the reason why moral and mental Karma — unlike purely physical Karma, which exhibits its immediate causes
and effects in such close objective connection that the relations between them are generally easily seen — generated
always on a subjective plane of consciousness and sometimes exhausted there, is often difficult for the personal
Ego to recognise, solely because the content of its consciousness is limited, and its attention far too much
directed to exterior things. Hence subjective or invisible Karma assumes a visible or objective form, whenever
the space side becomes apparent, a result that arises from the shifting of the psycho-physical threshold of
consciousness of the personal man. Whenever the latter fails to recognise the Karma of its actions this is
due to its ignorance, and such actions will certainly be repeated until the necessary lesson is learnt, and
experience thus acquired. In addition to this, how many of us, today, are constantly acting in a manner which
we know will have bad effects, and refusing to alter, until after a great waste of time and energy the
pain produced by our opposition to the law proves too great to withstand, and we resign the fruitless struggle — perhaps
after many lives that ought never to have been entered upon. Let us now apply the doctrine of stored-up Karma to our last quotation from The Secret Doctrine, respecting
the fate of the lower human principles at the death of a personality. We are now in a position to estimate the difference in aim between the desires of the inner and personal
Egos, the latter constantly wishes to act in accordance with the welfare of its own narrow self, regardless
of the good of others, whom in its blindness it fails to recognise as other parts of self, whilst the former
seeks, as we should expect from the nature of its expanded, transcendental consciousness, the welfare of all
beings, in conformity with the essential law of Unity. Egotism is thus the motive of the personal man, whilst
Altruism is the law of the Higher Man, as Du Prel says: —
We now approach the old problem of Free Will and Necessity, and must show a solution. The factors involved
in the question and to be reconciled are as follows. Every act has a cause, and the latter is in turn itself
the effect of a cause, and hence we can construct a beginningless and endless chain of causes and effects;
this being undoubtedly true, how then can Free Will be introduced — and we all feel that we have such
a thing — [Page 17] into this iron circle of necessity? But let us note at
the outset, that what we call causes and effects take place in phenomenal space and time, and are therefore
subject to those forms of the mind, whilst, on the contrary, the will of our Ego wells up from the deepest
planes of being. This being so, can we then at the same time preserve the freedom of the will and yet recognise
an unalterable sequence of events in the phenomenal world ? Kant sets his great intellect to work on this problem,
and we may now see the conclusions at which he arrived, and then compare them with the solution that the Esoteric
Philosophy can give on this point. He says, after his examination of the conditions:— All of us, at each moment of time, are busily engaged in contracting or expanding our further spheres of freedom
of action according to the [Page 18] character of our present thoughts, words,
and acts. Therefore it can be said that the inner Ego is free, and the personality partially free and partially
self-bound, obtaining more and more freedom, from the bonds of matter, the closer it unites itself with its
own free and better self, and thus partakes of the latter's transcendental divine nature. Another point now arises for discussion. Seeing the great influence for good or ill that physical heredity
and parental training must exercise upon the incarnated Ego, it will be well to enquire what power the latter
possesses over these factors, and how it can be brought to bear on them, Some Theosophical writers have said
that the Ego selects the family and circumstances best fitted for working out its Karma. No doubt this is true,
but the method by which this is effected has not been much gone into. Speaking of certain dead and dying-out
races, The Secret Doctrine says:—
Occultism teaches that no form can be given to anything, either by Nature or by man, whose ideal type
does not already exist on the subjective plane. More than this, that no such form or shape can possibly enter
man's consciousness, or evolve in his imagination, which does not exist in prototype, at least as an approximation". [The
Secret Doctrine, Vol 1, p 282]
Hence the Ego in matter has to struggle against a multitude of Karmic forms, physical, mental, etc., produced by
itself and the race in past incarnations, before it can be emancipated therefrom, and being thus involved in such
Karma renders it a task of extreme difficulty to escape from our self produced mental, moral and physical environment.
Dealing now with the Ego's self-produced physical body and its qualities, we saw before that each objective body
in space must have its subjective or time side, the latter of course being invisible or subjective only to our
physical consciousness, therefore our physical bodies like all others must be subject to a time cycle determined
by our past Karma, which confines our physical existence within its limits, and minor cycles must likewise govern
all the cells of which our bodies are made up; and doubtless similar laws control the four lower principles of
our nature, or the planes of form. For
"Occultism teaches that (a) the life-atoms of our (Prana) life-principle [Page
15] are never entirely lost when a man dies. That the atoms best impregnated with the life-principle
(an independent, eternal, conscious factor) are partially transmitted from father to son by heredity, and
partially are drawn once more together and become the animating principle of the new body in every new incarnation
of the Monads. Because (b) as the individual soul is ever the same, so are the atoms of the lower
principles (body, its astral, or life-double), and drawn as they are by affinity and Karmic law always
to the same individuality in a series of various bodies, etc., etc.". [The Secret Doctrine,
Vol 2, P 272.]
"The appropriateness of an instrument for the operation of Karma consists in the exact connection
and relation of the Karma with the body, mind, intellectual and psychical nature acquired for use by the Ego
in any life, and every instrument used by any Ego in any life is appropriate to the Karma operating through
it".[The Path, March 1893, “Aphorisms on Karma” page 368]
From this it follows that, granting the fact of stored Karma, the atoms composing the four lower principles which
are the vehicles for such Karma, will not at the rebirth of the Ego to whom they belong, form part of
its lower principles, but will do so at some future time, when this particular Karma must manifest. Thus the
difference betwixt the physical, psychic, [Page 16] and mental make up, or various
suits of clothes the permanent Ego wears in its long series of lives, is accounted for.
"So through our whole life is protracted the strife between our earthly phenomenal form, and
our true transcendental being. What is beautiful from the point of view of the subject is not beautiful from
that of the person, and therefore remains caviare for the multitude; and actions, ethically valuable
from the standpoint of the subject, are worthless and unintelligible from that of phenomenal Egoism. Nay, life
itself, from the standpoint of earthly consciousness a vale of tears, is from the standpoint of transcendental
consciousness a valuable possession, not in spite of suffering, but on account of it. But we who are to participate
in the transcendental order of things should not surrender ourselves to the illusions of the earthly consciousness,
this veil of Maya; we should bring the earthly will to silence in the aesthetic contemplation of nature, in
the ethical formation of our life, and should regard this earthly existence as a transitory phenomenal form
in correspondence with our transcendental interest".[Philosophy of Mysticism, Vol. 2, page
The great aim of the inner Ego being to unite the personality to itself, we must regard as evil all the actions
of the latter which tend to retard or hinder that result, and those as good which are in harmony with it. Hence
there is no absolute evil in the world, and evil is relative to good. There could be no law of Good, Harmony
or Unity in the Universe, had not differentiation first existed, as the necessary counterpart of the other, duality
being the law of manifested being.
"The impulse to incarnation is only explicable if the sufferings of life are of transcendental advantage to the subject, which has wholly different interests from the earthly person. The transcendental advantage of the earthly life appears even on two sides to be greater, the more evil we experience. Necessity is the mother of inventions, but also of Christian sympathy ; so that necessity advances both the historical progress of the race and the moral progress of the individual", [ Ibid, p 220]
"Thus, then, in our investigation into free actions and the causal power which produced them,
we arrived at an intelligible cause, beyond which, however, we cannot go; although we can recognize that it
is free that is, independent of all sensuous conditions, and that, in this way, it may be the sensuously unconditioned
condition of phenomena. But for what reason the intelligible character generates such and such phenomena, and
exhibits such and such an empirical character under certain circumstances, it is beyond the power of our reason
to decide. The problem was merely this — whether freedom and natural necessity can exist without opposition
in the same action ? To this question we have given a sufficient answer; for we have shown that as the former
stands in a relation to a different kind of conditions from those of the latter, the law of the one does not
affect the law of the other, and that, consequently, both can exist together in independence of and without
interference with each other". [Critique of Pure Reason, Meiklejohn’s Translation,
Thus Kant found an intellectual solution of the problem, although, not knowing the teachings of the Esoteric
Philosophy respecting the constitution of man as we now do, he could not grasp the details. He clearly saw, however,
that in a realm free from the limitations of phenomenal space and time, necessity did not exist, because no chain
of causes and effects exists there to bind; everything happens at once, to use a rough and inadequate expression,
in that world. It is true that the personal man is always hampered, and sometimes completely controlled, by his
mental and physical environment during any one life on the physical plane, but the Ego in this case is within
the world of causes and effects, and thus subject to time and space through the forms or Maya of these that it
has itself produced, and therefore must experience the Karma of them. But through the connection between the
inner and personal Egos, the latter, inside the barrier of this self-produced necessity, has its own field of
freedom of action, this free sphere being created by the action of the personal will; this force being a differentiation
of the will of the inner Ego, and thus is the weapon with which the personality struggles with more or less success
against its self-imposed destiny.
"It is a most suggestive fact — to those concrete thinkers who demand a physical proof
of Karma — that the lowest races of men are now rapidly dying out; a phenomenon largely due to an extraordinary
sterility setting in among the women, from the time that they were first approached by the Europeans. A process
of decimation is taking place all over the globe, among those races whose "time is up" — among
just those stocks, be it remarked, which esoteric philosophy regards as the senile representations of lost
archaic nations". "The tide-wave of incarnating Egos has rolled past them to harvest experience in
more developed and less senile stocks ; and their extinction is hence a Karmic necessity". [The
Secret Doctrine, Vol 2, page 780]
This statement shows the negative aspect of the question, or the extinction of races through the absence of suitable
Egos to incarnate therein, but we may now look at the positive side, and see whether the Ego can exercise a strong
influence towards bringing about any particular incarnation or field for the exercise of its Karma. This brings
us to a consideration of the metaphysics of love. Du Prel remarks: —
Why, therefore, Occult Philosophy considers time cycles of such paramount importance is clear, and we can also trace the reason why moral and mental Karma — unlike purely physical Karma, which exhibits its immediate causes and effects in such close objective connection that the relations between them are generally easily seen — generated always on a subjective plane of consciousness and sometimes exhausted there, is often difficult for the personal Ego to recognise, solely because the content of its consciousness is limited, and its attention far too much directed to exterior things. Hence subjective or invisible Karma assumes a visible or objective form, whenever the space side becomes apparent, a result that arises from the shifting of the psycho-physical threshold of consciousness of the personal man. Whenever the latter fails to recognise the Karma of its actions this is due to its ignorance, and such actions will certainly be repeated until the necessary lesson is learnt, and experience thus acquired. In addition to this, how many of us, today, are constantly acting in a manner which we know will have bad effects, and refusing to alter, until after a great waste of time and energy the pain produced by our opposition to the law proves too great to withstand, and we resign the fruitless struggle — perhaps after many lives that ought never to have been entered upon.
Let us now apply the doctrine of stored-up Karma to our last quotation from The Secret Doctrine, respecting the fate of the lower human principles at the death of a personality.
We are now in a position to estimate the difference in aim between the desires of the inner and personal Egos, the latter constantly wishes to act in accordance with the welfare of its own narrow self, regardless of the good of others, whom in its blindness it fails to recognise as other parts of self, whilst the former seeks, as we should expect from the nature of its expanded, transcendental consciousness, the welfare of all beings, in conformity with the essential law of Unity. Egotism is thus the motive of the personal man, whilst Altruism is the law of the Higher Man, as Du Prel says: —
We now approach the old problem of Free Will and Necessity, and must show a solution. The factors involved in the question and to be reconciled are as follows. Every act has a cause, and the latter is in turn itself the effect of a cause, and hence we can construct a beginningless and endless chain of causes and effects; this being undoubtedly true, how then can Free Will be introduced — and we all feel that we have such a thing — [Page 17] into this iron circle of necessity? But let us note at the outset, that what we call causes and effects take place in phenomenal space and time, and are therefore subject to those forms of the mind, whilst, on the contrary, the will of our Ego wells up from the deepest planes of being. This being so, can we then at the same time preserve the freedom of the will and yet recognise an unalterable sequence of events in the phenomenal world ? Kant sets his great intellect to work on this problem, and we may now see the conclusions at which he arrived, and then compare them with the solution that the Esoteric Philosophy can give on this point. He says, after his examination of the conditions:—
All of us, at each moment of time, are busily engaged in contracting or expanding our further spheres of freedom of action according to the [Page 18] character of our present thoughts, words, and acts. Therefore it can be said that the inner Ego is free, and the personality partially free and partially self-bound, obtaining more and more freedom, from the bonds of matter, the closer it unites itself with its own free and better self, and thus partakes of the latter's transcendental divine nature.
Another point now arises for discussion. Seeing the great influence for good or ill that physical heredity and parental training must exercise upon the incarnated Ego, it will be well to enquire what power the latter possesses over these factors, and how it can be brought to bear on them, Some Theosophical writers have said that the Ego selects the family and circumstances best fitted for working out its Karma. No doubt this is true, but the method by which this is effected has not been much gone into. Speaking of certain dead and dying-out races, The Secret Doctrine says:—
"Schopenhauer by deep penetration of this problem knew that love is metaphysical, i.e., that its quality, intensity, and direction are determined by a metaphysical will, calling into existence the child to be expected from the connection of these particular parents".[Philosophy of Mysticism, page 206]
"Love being an instinct having its aim outside the lover, its problem is not to be explained from the consciousness. The particular direction of the passion lies in unconscious motives. Beauty, far from being the ultimate explanation, is only the conscious means to instinct for its unconscious aim. It is, however, quite another question whether marriage is contracted from love. Marriage is often decided by passion, but it is by no means always the case, especially in our time; so that Bahnsen was quite right in saying that there are two principal sorts of marriages, the physical and the metaphysical, those which spring from worldly motives, and those in which we are led by the Unconscious”. [Ibid. p 210]
"But if birth is a free act of will, then already must the love of the [Page 19] parents be identical with the impulse to incarnation of a transcendental being, and the parents cannot be regarded as the producers, but only as the adoptive parents of their children, which explains at once the futility of all attempts to deal with the problem of life, as one of physical and chemical relations. It is difficult to justify marriage from the standpoint of pantheism, but from that of materialism, which regards love and marriage as only physical, it appears positively as a sin (of which opinion also Alexander Von Humboldt seems to have been); for parents have no right for their own satisfaction to bring into this existence a new being — a fraud upon it, if it has no metaphysical background. Only if love is identical with the transcendental act of will of the being pressing into existence, if marriages 'are made in Heaven' are they also justifiable". [Ibid, page 226]
Taking these arguments into consideration, it will appear that the Ego can exercise a great and sometimes irresistible force to bring about the environment it requires on the physical plane, and although it is obvious that there are other potent factors to take into account, yet the Ego can by this means materially lessen the swaying or holding back of Karma. The principal cause of this, being "the failure of the Ego to acquire a body which will furnish the instrument or apparatus in and by which the meditation or thoughts of previous lives can have their effect and be ripened." [Epitome of Theosophical Teaching, p 12.]
We may now consider Karma as effects in connection with motives and acts, in cases, where either one or the other, but not both, are opposed to the law of harmony. Supposing, for instance, that I do an action which is bad in itself, but with a perfectly right motive; then the action being wrong, the effect will be also bad on me, the actor, but the motive being right the effect will also be good, and I must experience this also, hence it will sometimes happen that such dual results arising from a differentiated source of actions and motives will exactly balance each other, and the effects on the actor thus completely nullified. If, on the contrary, we assume the motive to be bad and the act good, then the reverse results to those before given will ensue, causes and effects being necessarily always similar to each other, and it will follow that ordinary human nature being a mixture of good and bad qualities, in varying proportions, produces mixed motives and acts, neither of them hardly ever quite pure or quite bad, hence mixed results. Speaking on this question of Karmic results arising from the differences between the actions and thoughts of ordinary men and occultists, Light on the Path says:—
"It is said that a little attention to occultism produces great Karmic results. That is because it is impossible to give any attention to occultism without making a definite choice between what are familiarly called good and evil. The first step in occultism brings the student to the tree of knowledge. He must pluck and eat; he must choose. No longer is he capable of the indecision of ignorance. He goes on, either on the good or on the evil path. And to step definitely and knowingly even but one step on either path produces great Karmic results. The mass of men walk waveringly, uncertain as to the goal they aim at, their standard of life [Page 20] is indefinite, consequently their Karma operates in a confused manner. But when once the threshold of knowledge is reached, the confusion begins to lessen, and consequently the Karmic results increase enormously, because all are acting in the same direction on all the different planes". [Light on the Path, page 37]
Well, indeed, is it for most of us, that our bad acts have so little force behind them, although this also tells against us when we do good; for few of us can concentrate our entire energies in either direction, whilst the true occultist can, and hence reaps to the full the Karmic results of his potent acts. We may here enquire why it is that the majority of mankind constantly repeat acts, which they know must have bad effects upon themselves and others. I think that this refusal to learn from experience shows a terrible Karma, the effect of past misdoings, for it seems certain that an act, however bad, will be repeated again and again until the lesson is learnt. How many of us today are revolving in this vicious circle, refusing to advance in harmony with the great law of unity even one step. A sage has said, to do a wrong act once is an experience; twice, folly; three times a sin. Let us ponder this matter well. A great occultist was asked by a student, not very long ago: —
"Is it necessary that humanity should pass through so much misery as we now see around us, in order to obtain emancipation from the ills of conditioned existence", and the reply was, "if you had to undertake a journey, disagreeable but necessary, and encompassed by dangers, you would wisely pass through quickly; but the majority of mankind prefer to sit down in the mud". The freedom from the bonds of matter just mentioned, cannot be obtained by any of us, by producing good Karma. For if we constantly act from the motive, that by doing good to others, pleasant consequences will ensue to ourselves, we deliberately attach ourselves to the results of our actions, and although the consequences will be necessarily agreeable to us in this and future lives, yet the fetters being golden will be none the less fetters for that. It is against this subtle form of selfishness that Krishna so often warns Arjuna, speaking as the Higher Self to the lower, in the Bhagavat Gita, constantly telling the latter to be proof against pleasure and pain and all the other pairs of opposites, and to fight the battle of life, regardless of gain or loss, victory or defeat, keeping his mind fixed on the Supreme Spirit alone. Thus also it is said: —
"He who desires to be Karmaless must look to the air for a home; and after that to the ether. He who desires to form good Karma will meet with many confusions, and in the effort to sow rich seed for his own harvesting may plant a thousand weeds and among them the giant. Desire to sow no seed for your own harvesting; desire only to sow that seed the fruit of which shall feed the world. You are a part of the world, in giving it food you feed yourself. The soul must be unfettered, the [Page 21] desires free. Learn now that there is no cure for desire, no cure for the love of reward, no cure for the misery of longing, save in the fixing of the sight and hearing upon that which is invisible and soundless. Begin even now to practise it, and so a thousand serpents will be kept from your path. Live in the eternal. Therefore you who desire to understand the law of Karma attempt first to free yourself from these laws, and this can only be done by fixing your attention on that which is unaffected by those laws". [Light on the Path, p.40]Therefore all our actions should be carried out from a sense of duty alone and not with any idea of the consequences to ourselves, whether good or bad, if we wish to obtain emancipation from conditioned existence, fixing our thoughts on the Supreme Self, the unmanifested principle of all selves. This ethical teaching may seem too high and abstract for most of us, but it is the only path to freedom from rebirth in a physical world, and the sooner we begin to tread it the better for ourselves and others.
The problem of evil in humanity now claims some attention. According to Esoteric Philosophy, as we have seen, the differences between men are due to Karma operating to place Egos in just such physical circumstances, and with just such mental and moral characteristics as each has made for itself, therefore the existence in what we consider the most advanced nations, of those whom we call the criminal classes, shows that through some particular Karma, both national and individual, certain poorly developed entities — that is imperfectly developed in comparison with the general mass of the nation in which they are incarnated — appear therein. Accepting this view, the duty of any community towards these belated Egos is clear. Society whilst legitimately entitled to protect itself against their action, and narrow the sphere of their influence as much as possible, should attempt no punitive measures, and ought to use every endeavour to reform and bring them forward. In so far then as our present system of treating criminals is reformative, it is right, whilst so far as it is punitive it is wrong. For consider for a moment the actual position on both sides, when a community places a person in the dock for an offence against itself, we all know, although physical science has made too much of it, the enormous influence that early training and surroundings exercise on individuals for good or ill, therefore the first question that society should ask itself in such a case is, has everything possible been done to make it easy for everyone to do right and difficult to do wrong, as J. S. Mill somewhere says, for if not, then to just that extent society is itself responsible for the act of the criminal. Further, the existence of criminal classes in any community shows that the latter furnishes just the field required for the manifestation of such beings, and I should be unable to explain their existence in any nation which lived as a body, up to its highest capabilities. Shortly defined, [Page 22] evil is the intrusion of the past into the present, the abnormal survival of past phases of human evolution, and the consequent predominance of certain principles which have had their day, and fulfilled their proper functions, but are therefore now out of adjustment with the general scheme of things. I do not wish it to be supposed that I hold, however, that great differences in human character, considered only from the moral standpoint, should not exist together at any period. For such a state of things is naturally unavoidable, but between this and the far too common existence of those who appear to be nothing but brutes in human form, there is a great gulf fixed. As humanity, according to occultism, having passed the lowest point of its great life cycle, is now returning up the arc towards pure Spirit, this factor should now show itself in humanity as superior to matter, or in other words, material civilisation ought now to give place to spiritual civilisation — I leave it to you to say what is the fact today.
I had intended this evening to devote some time to the important question of national Karma, but at this late hour it is obviously impossible to do more than just refer to it, and I will therefore offer a few remarks on it to conclude. In the case of nations and races, the inevitable reaction following on their departure from the law of unity in action can be plainly seen, because the field of the force exerted is so extended to our view. Taking the case of international war, we can always see the bad effects flowing therefrom; for instance, Europe today is weighed down with taxation and oppressed commercially through the existence of huge standing armies, all this being the outcome or Karma of international rivalry in the past. In the commercial world, the insane idea almost universally prevails that one nation can become richer by blocking up the channels of its trade with others by means of taxation, forgetting that each nation is but a part of a greater whole, and has special functions to perform for humanity at large, and which no other can perform for it so well, and that therefore the highest welfare of the whole human race depends upon each nation, as well as each individual, performing its own part or duty properly. This truth, as all others, applying on every plane of life, whether moral, mental, commercial or physical. It is taught that
"Race-Karma influences each unit in the race through the law of distribution. National Karma operates on the members of the nation by the same law more concentrated. Family Karma governs only with a nation where families have been kept pure and distinct; for in any nation where there is a mixture of family — family Karma is in general distributed over a nation". [The Path, March 1893, “Aphorisms on Karma”, page 369]Referring to the world's Karma, it is also said: —
"The Karma of this earth is the combination of the acts and thoughts [Page 23] of all beings of every grade which were concerned in the preceding Manvantara or evolutionary stream from which ours flows". [Ibid. page 367]For in exactly the same way as each Ego constructs his future abode, or mental and physical bodies, by his present and past thoughts and acts, so does humanity, considered as an entity, thus construct its future abode or planet, with all its characteristics, and has to incarnate and exhaust its self-produced Karma thereon. I now beg to thank you for the consideration and attention you have given to me this evening, and will conclude with a quotation from the Light of Asia.
Behold, I show you Truth, lower than Hell,
Higher than Heaven, outside the utmost stars,
Farther than Brahm doth dwell.
Before beginning and without an end,
As space eternal, and as surely sure,
Is fixed a power divine which moves to good —
Only its laws endure.
Such is the Law which moves to righteousness,
Which none at last can turn aside or stay;
The heart of it is Love, the end of it
Is Peace and Consummation sweet. Obey.
"The prognosis of somnambulists would not be possible without intuitive knowledge of the laws of the inner life; the prescriptions of somnambulists would be of no value if they did not come from the same subject which accomplished the critical inspection and knew the laws of the development of disease. But all these phenomena would be impossible, were not the transcendental subject at the same time the organizing principle in us".[Philosophy of Mysticism, Vol I, p 152.]
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For a problem viewing one of our documents - or to report an error in a document - send a note
to the webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will try to answer any other query -if you would send a note to email@example.com
This document is a publication of the
Canadian Theosophical Association (a regional association of the Theosophical Society in Adyar)
89 Promenade Riverside,
St-Lambert, QC J4R 1A3
To reach the President - Pierre Laflamme dial 450-672-8577
or Toll Free - from all of Canada 866-277-0074
or you can telephone the national secretary at 905-455-7325