Setting the Stage
An introduction to the "Body of Knowledge" known as Theosophy
Part 53 - The Sweep Of Karma
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 12, October, 1933
(Pages 536-539; Size: 14K)
EVERY Message of Theosophy which has ever been transmitted to Humanity by its Elder Brothers embodied an exposition in some form of the Doctrine of Karma. No real message could be, without an unequivocal statement of the reign of law everywhere and all the time. Yet in spite of the fact that such has been the teaching of the Wise Ones from time immemorial, the ingenuity of man has been incessantly employed in devising ways and means of nullifying Natures Laws and the consequences flowing from their operation. The most common of ways by which mankind blinds itself to the Souls innate perception of Law is through the use of psychic opiates. These paralyze the higher spiritual centers, dethrone reason and make it possible to accept any spurious philosophy or religion, promising a short cut to the surcease of sorrow. Sectarian religion is such a psychic opiate and being unable to establish harmony and peace in this world, it promises these to its votaries in the next.
We are living in an age of inquiry. In such an age the exposition of the Message of Theosophy must necessarily take on an aspect which might be termed intellectual or scientific. The inquirers must be answered in their own terms, at least as far as it is possible to do so. Proof of the kind demanded has its limitations, as, in the final analysis, the one light which can illuminate life is to be found in the depths of ones own heart. Of the fundamental propositions underlying the Secret Doctrine, the one dealing with Law or Karma is most amenable to proof. This proof has been furnished in abundance in the present day exposition of the Eternal Wisdom. Not only religion, but scientific materialism tend to shatter Mans faith in the absolute dependability of law and for those who have been steeped in either, no appeal to its axiomatic character is of any avail. The weeds which choke up the soil of the mind have first to be uprooted before the flower of truth can be planted. H.P.B.s method of uprooting these weeds was not only by direct appeal to the Spiritual understanding but by a certain amount of both subjective and objective demonstration. That demonstration had to broaden the readily conceded reign of law in the physical, objective world. The veil of Isis had to be lifted and humanity had to be shown that there where no merely human eye could penetrate the sway of law is just as sure, just as potent, just as supreme. Spiritualism had already pried open the lowest psychic realm. Once some part of the occult cosmos was contacted and experienced, mens minds were ready to listen to further explanations of the forces at play behind the veil of known objective matter. The Secret Doctrine was written because it was called forth by those who were satisfied from the facts and proof already adduced that there exists a complete body of occult knowledge.
The various subjects composing the philosophy of Theosophy cannot be separated and treated apart from one another. They are all interrelated and it is impossible for a student to form a correct conception of one branch of the Teachings without understanding the other branches; and conversely, a misconception of one subject carries with it a misunderstanding of the entire philosophy. For example, a bias in favor of an extra cosmic Being or power is inconsistent with the absolutely impersonal, impartial and unerring operation of Karma. The general outline of occultism contained in Isis Unveiled, the Secret Doctrine, and other Theosophical works, sets forth and demonstrates the majestic sweep of Karma. The Theosophical teachings on evolution, cycles, reincarnation, the rounds races, planes, and the septenary constitution of Nature and of Man, furnish a perspective, both for the inner and the outward vision, which embraces the entire universe, both visible and invisible. It is in this respect that the present day impartation of Theosophy differs from all previous presentments within the memory of our Humanity. Previous messages confined themselves largely to ethical statements on the Doctrine of Karma; the present message sets forth the scientific basis for promulgated ethics. Take the simple fact that thought is a creative power; that every thought inevitably impresses a state of matter so that a creature is generated and that this creature attaches itself to its creator for weal or for woe, depending on the quality of the thought and the will and motive behind it. This alone throws light upon our karmic responsibility. Add to this the fact that neither time nor death nor space can eradicate the least of these thought creations and we have a conception of cause and effect which can leave no room for doubt or cavil. The law is seen as self enforcing. There is no escape, because there is no place to escape to. The entire universe being affected by every action, the entire universe sets up a reaction, which finds the center of perturbation, wherever that center may be. Even during the pralayas, or the long periodic rests of the universe, when all is again absorbed into its One Homogeneous Basis -- the skandhas remain. When the hour strikes they come forth and gravitate unerringly to their responsible centers.
All that we see about us, from the vastest solar system down to a fleeting thought can be traced to MAN, the self conscious, self directive, responsible power of Life. Man is supreme as a generator of causes; he is not supreme as a reaper of effects. On page six of the Proem of the Secret Doctrine we read: "It (Parabrahm) is that which is supreme, and not supreme (paravara) ... It is Supreme as CAUSE, not supreme as effect". It is man as a reaper of causes sown, which produces periodic manifestations; each manifestation being at the same time a limitation and an opportunity -- the means by which the Self rises to ever higher levels. Man in his daily life imitates the Great Cosmic Processes. Every idea entertained and every word uttered starts a cycle of manifestation which holds the consciousness enthralled, until the WILL bursts asunder the self imposed limitation. In the process of breaking ones bonds, a new plan or idea is born and with it comes a finer expression and a new found strength. And thus on and on -- the secret of life lying both for man and for the Kosmos, in the unbroken series of its manifestations.
In the Key to Theosophy, H.P.B. in conveying to her pupils the Theosophic conception of Deity explains: "It is the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that never manifesting, because absolute LAW, which in its manifesting periods is The ever Becoming." If the Absolute is the same as Law, it at once destroys the idea of the possibility of any arbitrariness in the infinitudes of space and with it the rulership of a personal God. If the idea of the deific essence as law carries with it an unconsoling coldness we have but to turn to the Voice of the Silence to see that such is not the teaching. There "compassion" is stated to be no attribute, but Alayas SELF ... and the law of Love eternal. "The more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its Being, the more thy Soul unites with that which Is, the more thou wilt become COMPASSION ABSOLUTE." In a footnote it is explained: "This compassion must not be regarded in the same light as God, the divine love of the Theists. Compassion stands here as an abstract, impersonal law, whose nature, being absolute Harmony, is thrown into confusion by discord, suffering and sin." The idea that LAW and absoluteness are one is also brought out in some answers of H.P.B. to be found in the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge:
Q. Then the power or Potentiality which precedes and is higher than the Ah hi is the law which necessitates manifestation.
A. Just so; periodical manifestation. When the hour strikes, the law comes into action, and the Ah hi appear on the first rung of the ladder of manifestation.
Q. But surely this is THE law and not A law?
A. Precisely, since it is absolute and "Secondless" -- therefore it is not an attribute, but that Absoluteness itself.
The metaphysical triad referred to on page 15 of the Proem of the Secret Doctrine is: the Absolute (Parabrahm), Spirit and matter. This is the Root from which proceeds all manifestation and the Parent of every trinity in Nature. The karmic trinity may be stated as (a) Cause, (b) Effect, (c) The Being in both; for, "There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects." The "Being" may be thought of as corresponding to the Absolute in the metaphysical triad referred to; Cause to spirit and effect to matter. The stream of causes which flows from every Being returns as a stream of effects. It is cause when viewed from below; effect when observed from above. The ever subjective observer and changeless center in every case is the Being itself. The Karmic stream of causes and effects, no matter how circuitous its path may be, finally returns to its Source either laden with richer and fuller life or the reverse. It is the latter if the Being acts on the basis of separateness. Behind and within the countless units is their unity and when a Being makes that Unity the basis of his action, he puts himself in direct relation with It; though maintaining his Individuality as a Being, he knows himself as That Be ness, for in Eternity the two are ONE. When this state is reached and maintained, Karma has been "overcome." He who is supreme as CAUSE is now also supreme as effect, if we may so express it. He feels no personal reactions and is no longer "checked by his Karma." This is true liberation. As expressed in "Light on the Path :"
The operations of the actual laws of Karma are not to be studied until the disciple has reached the point at which they no longer affect himself ... Therefore you who desire to understand the laws 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 them.
COMPILERS NOTE: I added these footnotes; they were not in the article. If any of them dont paint an accurate enough picture, or are incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot them and point the inaccuracies out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
"Isis" means Mother Nature. So the theosophical book, Isis Unveiled, should be thought of as "Nature Unveiled" or "Mother Nature Unveiled".2.
"Round" is a very long cyclic period of planetary manifestation for every plane (a cycle which has a beginning and an ending), from the most ethereal down to the densest material plane, which we are familiar with.3.
"Skandhas" are bundles, or groups of attributes. These unite at the birth of man and constitute his personality. Every tendency of our character, good, bad, or otherwise, that we set up in our past lives, are included in this. The same goes for all of the skills and talents that we acquired through self effort.4.
"Parabrahm" is the Absolute ALL -- the attributeless, the secondless reality. The impersonal and nameless universal Principle.5.
"Alaya" means the Universal Soul: the universal underlying essence, the basis or root of all things in the Cosmos.6.
"Ah hi" are Wise Serpents, or Dragons of Wisdom -- in other words, the great adepts known as Masters of Wisdom.
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