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Uncertainty & Karma

May 18, 1995 08:37 PM
by Jerry Schueler

The Karma discussion has been great. I especially want to thank
Eldon and JRC for their repsective views. I only have time for a
few quick thoughts on JRC's thought-provoking response to Eldon.

JRC<.  It doesn't matter whether someone believes in gravity or
not, one still falls off a cliff.  Aristotle's most basic
principle of metaphysics was "A=A", that is, a thing is identical
to itself.  A thing cannot both be and not be.  >

I think a large part of the "problem" with our dicussion of karma
lies in its definition.  There are several definitions of karma.
Also, there is a personal and a collective karma.  I think that
if we see karma as the process of causality (cause and effect
over time without any morality attached) then it can legitimately
be viewed as a universal law.  But what are universal laws,
anyway? In my view, they are the rules of the game of life that
we (our psyches, not our egos) accept when we incarnate or
self-express in the lower four cosmic planes the lower 7 Globes
of HPB's planetary chain.  Some Adepts are said to be able to
levitate, and thus would not necessarily fall off the proverbial
cliff.  How can this be? Perhaps they are aware of alternate
rules in this game of life that can be played? Or perhaps they
are sufficiently advanced (having already 'won' the game) that
they can bend some of the rules for a time?

According to Buddhist logic, A can be A as well as not A just
fine, thank you very much.  We can, according to their system, be
something and not be that something at the same time.  Existence
and nonexistence are two sides of a duality, and both have truth
(or both are falsehoods, take your pick).  Thus even Aristotle is
probably relative.

<If there is a universal "law" of Karma, *why is it not
universally accepted*?" Why has the process of evolution not, by
now, thoroughly integrated such a truth into behavior?>

The problem of accepting karma comes along mainly with the
correspondiong idea of reincarnation.  If karma is seen as
causality, then no problem - during this life.  But when we try
to use karma across many lifetimes, this is where we have most
non-acceptance.  It is hard for most people (theosophists
included, with perhaps Alan being one exception) to accept karma
without reincarnation or vice versa.  Most writers and teachers
link the two doctrines together for this reason.  Reincarnation,
per se, is a religious doctrine because it is hard to define such
a process without some kind of ruling/governing deity(ies) behind
it.  The notion of a long series of imbodiments for all beings
begs for some kind of a divine oversight.  My own notion of us
doing it all for the fun of it still needs some kind of Builders,
Cosmocrators, Recorders, and so on to keep it all going.  Whether
you can accept the doctrine of reincarnation (in some form or
another) or not largely depends on your view of God, or gods &
goddesses, which gets us into the area of religion.  Thus trying
to keep Karma far away from religion will be a bit tricky.

< If Theosophy, where "There is no religion higher than Truth" is
not willing to subject its own core concepts to rigorous
examination, is not willing to push its own ideas to that limit
you speak of, is willing to accept things on the basis of
personal, subjective experience alone, then it becomes simply
another religion (an odd amalgam of Hinduism and Buddhism
sprinkled with a dash of western occultism) asserting its
"truths" in the same way, and upon the same foundation, as any
other religion (which is, incidently, the way the general
population ...  at least those parts of it that have heard of
Theosophy ...  tends to see the Theosophical Society).  >

Agreed.  You are absolutely right here, and it is our challenge
to keep the mystery of life intact and its "answers" to a
minimum.  We must all vow to no longer allow "lazy thinking" in
our ranks.

< ...Condescending).  This attitude is (unfortunately, IMO) a
terribly common one throughout the current TS, and may be a chief
reason why so many from my generation that have touched the TS
leave it after a very short period of time.  >

I hope that you are wrong here.  Speaking for myself, neither
James Long nor Grace Knoche were ever condescending to me.  I
rather think that most leave because they seek easy answers and
fast solutions.  However, if some TS leaders are condescending,
then I have to agree with you that this alone would drive folks
(including myself) away.

<..., that rational thought and the desire for empirical forms of
investigation were considered the marks of "unenlightened" minds.

This is very very unfortunate.  It shows a degredation from the
HPB philosophy of seeking your own truth and of the Adept
teaching of the need to take heaven by storm.  If theosophical
teachings don't stand up to scientific scrutiny (such as
life-as-we-know-it on Mars and Venus) then the teachings need to
be changed.  Theosophical ideas will ever need to be upgraded as
our knowledge advances.

< For whatever its worth, I believe there may be two general
ranges of truths, the universal and the personal.>

I would prefer to say personal and collective.  The personal is
what I myself believe to be true.  The collective is what the
general public believes to be true.  Both the personal and the
collective views include unconscious agreements as to the rules
or laws that are operative at any given time.  My own scientific
viewpoint makes me cringe at the idea of universal truths (What
is true on Earth today may not be what was true on Saturn six
million years ago, and so on).  Perhaps the only universal truth
is 'as above so below' which seems to work well on all planes and

< It is possible to fully accept the Three Objects without in any
way accepting (at least not a priori) any of the religious truths
of Hinduism or Buddhism.  >

Absolutely.  I hope I never forget this.

< In short, I have *no* certainty, inner or outer, about what
Karma is, or even whether it actually exists as a principle in
lives other than those who have internalized it as an operative

This is simply being honest.  Do the gods really exist, or are
they "only" inner archetypes? Is divinity within or without? We
may think that Karma has been shown to exist by modern psychology
at least to the extent that our past affects our present and our
future.  The question is whether it is a universal law operating,
or whether it is our own guilts, regrets, and unconscious desires
that are affecting us.  Another question is whether these guilts,
regrets and desires carry over to future lives in the form of
skandhas or shistas.  Even when we catch glimpses of a past life,
how do we know whether the vision was real or a mayavic illusion?
Carl Jung, for example, based most of his teachings on his own
personal experiences both waking and in dreams.  Who can say
which were valid and which were illusion?

I guess what I am getting at here is that we all remain uncertain
about life, and will probably continue to do so.  When we
occassional do have an ecstatic vision during meditation or
dream, can we ever be certain that it is valid? It seems to be
that a scientific approach is a good thing, but it almost has to
be tempered a bit by faith.  On the other hand, faith unguided by
reason can fly off in all sorts of unhelpful directions.

Jerry S.

PS.  I also am studing chaos theory and complexity theory, and so
far what I have found only strengthens my theosophical belief
system.  But I agree with JRC that determinism is dead and chaos
(wearing the clothes of uncertainty) is alive in the world and
must, somehow, be accounted for if anyone wants to keep their
belief system intact over the coming years.  In fact, it is just
this that has caused me to take a deeper look into karma and
reincarnation.  The old idea of karmic determinism can no longer
hold today.  Does this mean that karma and reincarnation are not
valid doctrines? No.  But it does mean that we have to change our
view of them somewhat (a paradigm shift, if you will).  This is
exactly what I have been trying to say and to bring out in these
discussions.  The exoteric (i.e., simplistic) teaching of karma
(and probably reincarnation) can no longer be accepted as
presented by Judge, Besant, and others.  Life is now shown to be
lot more complex.  In fact, Jung's idea of synchronicity shows
that even causality may no longer be valid as a single
explanation of how things work.  Physicists took gas for years
trying to ignore this, and finally succumed to the inevitable,
albeit distastful, facts.  Physicists now speak in terms of
probabilites rather than certainties.  We theosophists need to do

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