Karma, causality, art ... yeah, just about everything
Feb 11, 1995 01:08 AM
by Murray Stentiford, Scientific Software and Systems Ltd
Replying to Jerry Schueler's post of 27 January 95 headed
This is a rather long post, but I have tried to write it in a way
that does not exclude the general list reader. It has taken me a
lot longer to find the time to write than I would have liked, but
Near the end of your post, Jerry, you say
> Post no Flames. Please, before you flame this idea, think
> about it.
I can understand your concern for this possibility, but I'm not
one who was affronted by your piece. I agreed with much of it.
With university degrees in physics, I'm familiar enough with the
general quantum scene, though not an expert in it. On the other
hand, I don't have that sort of familiarity with Jung, so may
have to draw on your patience as in
> I will be happy to address questions or further refinements.
As with you I am attempting to integrate scientific and
theosophical world views. That's the basis of my following
First, I agree with you that the workings of karma are not
rigidly deterministic. Nature is chaotic and unpredictable as
well as orderly and deterministic, intermeshed in ways you have
already mentioned. However, there are some aspects of causality
I want to write about.
(Murray in "Re: The Chaos Factor" of 27 Jan 95):
> > I don't see synchronicity necessarily as acausality.
> Synchronicity is necessarily acausal because that is Jung's own
Obviously, but that begs the question of what Jung meant by
(In your 26 Jan 95 post):
> Causality works in the outward physical plane while synchronicity
> (acausality) works within the psyche and both interrelate
> together in our lives.
(and on 27 Jan 95)
> Jung defines synchronicity as the polar opposite or complement
> (... syzygy) of causality. It refers to things that happen
> without a physical cause.
So Jung & Pauli use the word "acausal" to refer to just the
physical plane, which is fine by me if we stay within their set
of ideas and terminology, but a theosophical world-view posits
whole realms and heirarchies of non-physical causes, some of
which work within the psyche while others are beyond it.
I had this wider sense in mind when writing "I don't see
synchronicity necessarily as acausality". Clearly, we need to
specify what levels of reality we're considering when using the
> The difference between a synchronicity and pure coincidence is
> that it must be *meaningful* to the psyche experiencing it.
Yes, a sense of meaning or recognition or insight does
characterise a synchronistic experience, but this is a bit like
art. You can find artistic beauty or meaning in the sand
patterns of a beach, and also in any humanly-produced work of
art, but the causality in the two cases is very different. The
intentionality and motive are very different, too, even if you
accept the idea of devas of nature working through sand, water
I believe the experience of synchronicity often has a distinct
cause like a knot of karmic energy or a creative event in the
surrounding universal mind field, or etherial beings or
archetypes working through the situation. This is rather like
the work-of-art situation above.
But there can be other kinds of experience of synchronicity that
don't have such a definite cause; they rely mainly on a readiness
in the psyche to find meaning or import in circumstances, with
little coming from the "outside". This corresponds to the artful
sand patterns case above. Mind, this readiness is also a factor
in the "strongly caused" kind of synchronicity above. Pardon the
I suspect that Jung and Pauli were talking mostly about the
"weakly caused" form of synchronicity, hence their term
"acausal". Probably the scope of a theosophical view would have
been too wide for them to accept comfortably as "good
scientists", so they consciously or unconsciously bunched
strongly caused synchronicity in with it. Correct me if I'm
All this raises questions of what defines or puts limits around
the experiencing self. As we go within, the boundaries soften
and we can experience ourselves as a larger field of
consciousness than the customary one-person-alone. Cause and
experiencer are connected in a continuous field of energy and
consciousness, and experiencer comes to be aware of it.
Now I want to take a look at causality as the transmission of
information in a noisy environment, using an analogy that has a
lot to offer in understanding karma. It shows how things can be
connected yet not deterministic, ie how there is not always a
specific karma behind an event, and how a karma can be overridden
by subsequent inputs. I'm using "karma" more specifically, now.
Imagine you're in a long underground station with a lot of people
waiting in it and talking. A friend of yours appears at the
other end and tries to call out to you. If the station is long
enough, and there are enough people in between talking loudly
enough, your friend's voice will be lost in the noise that
surrounds you. This physical situation is like sending a
television signal along a coaxial cable or data along a fibre
optic cable. As the signal weakens, there comes a point at which
it becomes comparable with the surrounding noise which in the
cable is due to microsopic thermal motion of the electrons and
atoms, and quantum uncertainty. Further down the line, you can't
pick out the signal amidst the noise any more.
Yet you and your friend are still connected acoustically, even if
the signal is apparently lost. You could prove this by making a
repetitive sound and averaging the response in synchronised time
frames, as in brain experiments which "dig out" the brain's
response to a flash of light by adding together its responses to
a large number of repetitions of an identical stimulus. You
could retrieve the original signal at the railway station out of
overwhelming noise, if you could repeat it and combine the sound
around you (to get the average) enough times.
Applying this to karma, the way you blinked your eyes at one
moment in a previous life would have no discernible effect on you
in this life because the karmic signal has been lost in the
noise. It is too weak compared with the local signals.
Strong karmic signals would come from powerfully-motivated or
frequently- repeated thoughts/feelings/actions. They would have
identifiable karmic outcomes.
The karmic "noise" that surrounds you consists of thoughts,
feelings and physical activity, both macroscopic and macroscopic,
from all manner of beings and disturbances.
So when the cat barfs on the rug, it is most probably due to
little more than local effects, eg the grass it ate before you
gave it dinner, or an irritation in its stomach.
But it is just possible that some deep and meaningful karma could
express itself through an outwardly similar event. If there was,
you'd probably experience it as synchronistic.
No wonder it's notoriously difficult to try and guess the karma
behind an event or situation!
As to HOW the subtle energies of thought/feeling karma express
themselves in circumstances in the physical world, that's another
major field of inquiry and frontier onto mystery.
By the way, I chose acoustic and electrical signals for my
example of how a signal transmits and competes with noise for
simplicity since they are linear systems, ie response is
basically proportional to input. Large nonlinear systems like
the planet's atmosphere involving bulk movement of matter and
turbulence, bring in disorder in an additional way.
Minute inputs at some parts of the system can have major effects
(the butterfly effect) but similar inputs at other parts or times
can be completely lost due to a widely-varying sensitivity
throughout this kind of system. So while this situation is much
more complicated, it supports the idea that weak karmic impulses
can be lost in the turbulence as well as the noise. That sounds
Conclusion: if karma works like these analogies, it does not have
an implacable down-to-the-toenails determinism about it. Which
is basically what you were saying, Jerry, but were concerned that
some people would reject or feel threatened by.
So the karmic impulse is mutable and loseable; local and
relatively trivial things can decide what happens.
That's not a bad definition of an accident.
But the universe is full of life! Perhaps the quantum
unpredictability of atomic particles is an expression of the
divine life within them.
Perhaps they're even having fun!!
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application