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And still more on Karma

May 10, 1995 02:09 PM
by Jerry Schueler

Here are a few thoughts on the subject of karma:

JRC:< prior to the knowledge of quantum
mechanics, chaos and complexity theory & etc.,
the entire world was assumed to be
deterministic, and hence "Karma" was easily
explained as an extension of physical laws to the
moral/behavioral arena>

Right. When we think of karma in terms of
causality, we are going along with the outdated
Newtonian view of the world as a large machine.
It is not a machine.  It is a living complex
system as defined in modern chaos theory.  Karma
defined within the context of any moral system as
a balance of rewards and punishments is too naive
for us to even consider today.

JRC:< Metaphysics (IMO) has only barely begun to
integrate and appreciate the worldview gradually
emerging out of late 20th century science>

Agreed.  HPB was correct when she foresaw
20th-century science coming closer to theosophy.
But theosophy, as she taught it last century, has
itself come a long way.  I see us getting away
from the "lazy thinking" that Jung saw, and
drawing the general principles of theosophy
(Eldon's "core teachings" if you will) closer to
modern science.  The arrogance of the scientific
community that HPB confronted is gone.  Einstein,
Bohr, and Godel have thoroughly changed the
scientific environment or atmosphere around (for
those who don't know, Godel's theorem is a
mathematical proof that mathematics itself has
inherent limitations).  Nowadays everything is a
"theory" or "model" rather than truth.  The fact
that the modern theosophical movement is
also heading in this direction is, I think, a
very healthy sign for the TS.  Just as science is
no longer arrogant in its assumptions,
theosophists should not be arrogant in their
knowledge.  This is why I deliberately called
HPB's planetary chain a model, and only one model
of many at that.

JRC: <Karma (for instance) is usually spoken of
in quite a linear fashion, i.e., "he murdered me
in life A, I murdered him in life B" etc., etc.,
but what if karma is far more of a complex,
multi-dimensional web than a single line of
action/reaction (which seems, IMO, far more
likely) ...>

I Agree.  It is interesting to me that while G de
Purucker carefully showed that karma worked on
all planes and levels, we always seem to
interpret this as linear functioning on each
plane rather than multi-dimensional functioning.
The linear notion that A kills B in one life so
that B kills A in another is a good example of
determinism.  I see order as being opposed by
chaos, and causality as being opposed by
acausality.  In an ultimate sense, existence
itself is opposed by nonexistence just as light
is always opposed by darkness and spirit by
matter.  We always knew that death is necessary
for life, but only recently have we discovered
that chaos is necessary for order.  If karma is
opposed by its opposite, then perhaps we need a
name for it?

JRC:< (the "three-body problem" of classical
physics may apply as much to karma as to
planetary bodies, eh?).>

Exactly.  For those who don't know, most of the
equations used in physics involve two masses.
Newton's gravitational equation for planets as
well as equations in quantum mechanics work well
with two bodies, but get very messy when a third
body is introduced.

JRC:< I believe that there is such an enormous
number of people asking, often desperately, for
help that I can't conceive of ever needing to try
to "force" my service onto anyone.  Plus I guess
I believe "service" to be at root an orientation
towards life rather than a series of discrete
acts ... every job I hold (volunteer or paid) is
simply an avenue of "service".>

I agree with you that service should be an
orientation towards life.  It should be a mind
set that we do because we want to, rather than a
duty.  The idea of forcing one's help only hit
home to me when we got our current foster child.
She has a borderline personality disorder and
often "helps" in ways that exert her dominance
rather than really help (she helps only when it
suits her, and doesn't ask first; often what she
does is either totally unnecessary or wrong and
must be done over).  "I was only trying to help"
is an oft-used excuse for why something got
broken.  On a larger scale, countries often help
other countries with  strings' attached to their
care packages.  I doubt that theosophists have
these problems, but I do think it important to
understand that these problems do exist and that
we should ask if help is needed before we blunder

JRC:< too much worrying about one's "personal"
karma simply re-affirms the illusion of a
separate, personal self>

Exactly.  This idea hit me years ago and has
allowed me to quit worrying about my personal

JRC:< Presume, for a moment (if, that is, you
feel like fooling around with this), that this
holds true in *any* manifested space; that (for
instance) a "thought-form" *has the analog of
"mass" in mental space*, and hence has a
"gravity" of sorts that can begin attracting
other thoughts that resonate with its
animating impulse>

I like this.  Your idea holds a treasure trove of
possibilities and ramifications.  According to
Einstein's famous field equation, matter is
related to the curvature of spacetime; that the
geometry of spacetime is directly related to the
distribution of matter in that spacetime.
Spacetime is a continuum that curves back on
itself.  There is a sense of space and time on
all cosmic planes except the divine (highest), so
it is likely that some type of "matter" exists on
each plane.  The amount (density) of matter
determines the strength of gravitational
attraction.  One of my pet theories is that our
past curves around to become our future.  Another
is that attraction is one side of a duality, so
that whenever/wherever attraction can be found,
repulsion is lurking close by.

JRC:< I guess at this point I might accept the
possibility that some principle may exist
(whether "universal" or not I couldn't say) that
is at least partially responsible for that large
group of disconnected phenomena commonly lumped
together and labeled "karma", but have concluded
that so long as I operate within that *highly*
limited (by its very nature) range of awareness
of an incarnate human I not only do not, but
*cannot* know the "truth" of karma to the degree
necessary to use it as a modifier of action.  I
guess I've just concluded that attempting to lose
oneself in service seems a far more direct road
to the Innermost than countless speculations
about how to "eliminate" "karma". >

Agreed.  If you could see karmic forces resulting
from a single action, they would probably look a
lot like a spider's web, reaching outward in many
directions and affecting many others over time.
The probabilities associated with karmic
resultants render predictions nigh impossible
even for the most advanced Adepts (though they
can, I believe, foresee most resultants
especially in the near term.  Its rather like
predicting the weather - high probabilities for
the short term falling to low probabilities for
the long term; this is one important fallout from
chaos theory).

Actually, losing yourself in service will, by
itself, help eliminate your karma.  Service is a
spiritual technique that works very well as any
bodisattva could tell you (as long as the service
is done without any thought of a reward or

Liesel:< I tried to adapt the most feasible,
flexible belief system I knew about, & that came
to be Theosophy. It has served, and still serves,
me well; >

It serves me well too.

Liesel:< Theosophy is a belief system like any
other, & so is Karma. It works well for me, so I
use it.>

An eclectic view that I also advocate.

Murray:< I often see people in our study groups
asking for simple, tried and accessible
techniques in meditation and living, beyond
what's in the few relevant TS books.>

This is probably the single-most reason that the
TS has such a high turnover rate in membership.
People don't want to hear that the results
obtained are always in proportion to the effort
and time expended.  I was as guilty as anyone in
this.  I felt that theosophical techniques were
too slow for me.  So, I must confess that I have
dabbled in unapproved  techniques' myself.  But
my theoretical outlook has remained in the
theosophical camp, chiefly I suppose, because the
TS "core teachings" have been able to explain my
experiences satisfactorily.  We can maintain our
worldview only for so long as that worldview
logically explains our experiences.  Whenever we
experience something that cannot be explained by
our belief system, we either sink into cognitive
dissonance and/or depression which often leads to
death, or we set about to change or revise our
belief system to something that can explain those
experiences.  As soon as I experience something
that theosophy can't explain to me, I'll let
everyone know :-).

Keith:< Dharma seems to imply that there is a
calling, a grace, an evolutionary meaning to all
this running around.>

There is Keith.  It has many names besides
dharma.  Magic calls it our True Will.  I see it
as our inherent need for self-expression.

Keith:< But even this points to the obvious
conclusion that if you follow your Dharma
(Bliss?), you can escape a lot of Karma,
but not Chaos.>

I question your word "escape" here.  No one can
escape their karma.  This would be equivalent to
escaping from yourself.  Well, many people have
tried to run away from themselves or from their
memories, but so far none have been very
successful.  The idea that I was trying to convey
is to transmute or transcend karma (to rise above
it so that it no longer has any effect on you)
rather than to escape from it.  Actually, the
ability to follow your bliss or not depends on
your karma.  Our personal karma or karmic burden
is intricately tied to our sense of a personal
self.  The only real way to eliminate our
personal karma is to eliminate our sense of a
separate independent self.  This can't be done
completely while embodied because such a egoic
sense is needed to function in this world.  (The
very idea that  I' can't help others because  I'
don't exist is exactly the teaching of the
Pratyeka-Buddhas).  It can, however, be
approached in degree.

Jerry S.

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