Dimensions of Karma

 Printed in the Summer 2019 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Crawford, Don ,"Dimensions of Karma" Quest 107:3, pg 26-27

By Don Crawford 

The word karma, from the Sanskrit, is a term rather difficult for the Western-trained mind to clearly grasp in its full dimensions. The classic Christian expression of this concept is contained in the apostle Paul’s words: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Other terms that express similar concepts are “destiny,” “just desserts,” and even “comeuppance.” The essence of the idea of karma is that whatever comes to the individual, physically, emotionally, or mentally, is due on the basis of past behavior or decision.

The idea of karma is supported by the belief that each individual creates his or her own life (or lives), now and in the future. The Divine has given each person irrevocable free will—the right to make choices from minute to minute. Each choice in turn carries its own consequence, just as the seed of a fruit invariably produces its own kind. Therefore the consequences of actions eventually and inescapably come home to their creator.

Occultists speak of karma as divine justice, and view it as part of the divine plan. As one of the Masters of the Wisdom expresses it, “Make and keep me every anchored in the justice of thy Plan. I am the epitome of perfection, living the life of God in Man.”

Our understanding of this cosmic cause-and-effect law of nature is complicated by its timing. Where the effect swiftly follows its cause, as when we stub our toe and instantly feel pain, the relationship is readily apparent. It takes a little more stretching of belief to accept cause-effect relationships with prolonged or delayed results, for example, after many years have elapsed, or several lifetimes.

Nevertheless, the idea that the conditions we harvest in our adult years were to a large extent sown during our earlier years is readily accepted, even by developmental psychologists. Is it that much of a leap to suggest that the harvests we accrue in one lifetime might be the results of the sowings of previous lifetimes? Admittedly, it does take more stretching of our capacity for belief, but this is relative to the degree of our open-mindedness.

Karma is also known to the occultists as the major law of manifestation. Nothing comes from nothing. For every effect there must be a progenitor—a cause. Everything in manifestation is in constant motion, and this motion creates imbalances. This is the basic cause of karma and reincarnation. From life to life, we learn how to reduce the number of imbalances we create through wrongful choices and decisions until we have reduced these almost to the point of nonexistence. At this stage, we have learned to live with poise, balance, and inner harmony regardless of external circumstances. When we learn to live in harmony within ourselves and balance in our relationships with others, we live within much more than we live without, and our incarnations on this planet come to an end.

For those who accept reincarnation as fact, it becomes readily apparent that at any given time we are simultaneously reaping and sowing karma. Every day we make decisions that will eventuate in consequences, while at the same time we are reaping the consequences of previous decisions.

Making decisions is in fact the most obvious process in living life. We could hardly get up in the morning, go to work, cook a meal, or watch TV unless we decided to do so. Prolonged and consistent choices readily become habits. It is obvious that many things come to us not of our liking—as when we drink too much the night before and wake up with a proverbial headache in the morning, and we utter the oath “Never again!” But only those who are immature and irresponsible would deny the role of their own decisions in the outcome. It could be intimated from this that when it comes to recognizing our own karma, we tend toward the immature and irresponsible. But we are also influenced by the timetable factor, that is, the gap in time that sometimes occur between decisions and consequences. Freud’s concept of projection also comes to mind here—accusing others of what we see in ourselves.

Another occult concept associated with karma is that of the transformation of energies. This holds that karma can be modified or mitigated if deemed undesirable. Dostoevsky wrote brilliantly about this idea in his classic Crime and Punishment. The hero, Raskolnikov, murders an old pawnbroker and her sister, believing himself to be above the laws of man. The clever detective, Porfiry Petrovich, knows that Raskolnikov did it but is unable to prove it, thus freeing him from any manmade punishment.

Dostoevsky places the karma, and rightly so, directly upon the consciousness of the creator of the dastardly act. Eventually, Raskolnikov confesses to the unprovable crime so that he can make amends for his transgression against nature and man. This is a classic example of the law of the transformation of energies. Raskolnikov chooses to expend a large portion of his available energies in atoning for his crime, and accepts exile in Siberia. We can all atone for our past deeds if we so choose: it is one way of balancing the books of negative behavior and consequent karma.

The concepts of reincarnation and karma lend themselves to the analogy of a school: in fact, there is an old mystical expression that says, “Life is a school for souls.” The rounds of different lifetimes are the various “grades” to be mastered, and reincarnation is the vehicle for returning the “pupil,” or the soul, to the school so that it can learn the required wisdom needed to move on to other domains after mastering this material plane of existence.

It has been claimed that each new life begins at exactly the point where the old one ended. Knowing this, the individual has the choice of either accelerating or retarding his or her “graduation.” But in a sense, even being aware of having this choice is a matter of karma , requiring one to have previously planted the seeds for this discovery. It is a matter of growth and consciousness expansion, which comes about through the digesting of life’s experiences, over and over, until one “gets it.”

The teachings of the Buddha were geared toward showing the chela, or disciple, how to put a quick end to the rounds required to attain liberation, or nirvana. He called the core of his teachings the Noble Eightfold Path, including, among others, right values, right thinking, right actions, right speech, and right occupation. “Right occupation” basically means work without doing harm to another. Harm to others, or himsa, is a major hindrance to spiritual growth. Ahimsa, or harmlessness, is a major contributor toward spiritual growth,

According to the Buddha, once all the individual’s karma has been worked out or transformed, meaning that all past sowings have been harvested and no new sowings remain, except those that help the individual to undergo the needed initiations, then that individual’s books are balanced, and the soul of that individual can go on to its just reward—in Buddhist terms, nirvana. Christians speak of  this as “return to the house of the Father,” or simply going to heaven. In the terms of ancient Gnosticism, learning all the worldly lessons is rewarded by ascension, whereby the individualized soul rises and reunites with the body of the One, the Universal, Absolute, or the Divinity, at least for a time.

Ascension comes about as the result of having attained mastery over each hierarchical initiation, related to the energy levels of the human organism. Initiations are analogous to the grades or rounds in our school above, and ascension represents the mastery of the school’s life lessons, and the return of the soul to the “house of the Father.” This is, in essence, the occult interpretation of the biblical story of the prodigal son.

The parallels drawn here are based on the idea that there is a common Ancient or Ageless Wisdom underlying all the world’s religions. If we could accept this common core and acknowledge the universal intelligence behind all of nature’s phenomena, perhaps, instead of focusing on superficial differences, which tend to alienate one faith or culture from another, we could find common ground on which to build a lasting brotherhood ( and sisterhood) and discover the unity of all that IS.


Don Crawford received his M.S.W. degree from UC Berkeley during the heyday of the sixties. During his forty-year clinical experience, he studied human behavior from a variety of positions. When he discovered Theosophy, he knew it to be the only philosophy he could accept and absorb. He has written a book entitled The Sage Institute, available for sale on Amazon. He is retired and continues to write for linkedin.post about the evolution of the human race. He has been published in both national and international journals.


Image
Theosophical Society PrivacyTerms & ConditionsRefund Policy • © 2022 The Theosophical Society in America



Affiliate Disclaimer

The Theosophical Society in America is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Purchases made using affiliate links may generate a small commission which helps to support the mission of The Theosophical Society, enabling us to continue to produce programming and provide resources.