Thoughts on Karma
May 19, 1995 03:01 PM
by Jerry Schueler
Some more thoughts on karma.
In OCCULT GLOSSARY, G de P gives Karma (which he called Karman)
as causality; "a chain of causation, stretching back into the
infinity of the past ...[and] ...into the infinity of the
future." He then calls it "universal Nature, which is infinite
and therefore everywhere and timeless." In effect, he is calling
Nature infinite and eternal, which is to say, beyond time and
space. Clearly Nature exists within time and space. Clearly, so
does Karma. I can't help but think that G de P meant "everywhere
and timeless" in the sense of throughout this entire manvantara,
and not in the sense of outside of our space-time continuum.
This may seem to be a small point, but it is not. In fact, it is
a crucial point if we want to learn what Karma is. If Karma is
truly infinite and eternal, then it is divine and the entire
concept takes on a religious mystique that can never come to
terms with science. Although this is exactly what G de P
implies, I have to hope that he actually meant the words in terms
of this manvantara (and therefore within space-time).
In Vol I of ECHOES OF THE ORIENT, Judge lists 31 "Aphorisms on
Karma." I don't have time to type in all of these, but I would
like to comment on a few of them:
(1) There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel
Now this, the first aphorism, makes a lot of sense to me. It
implies that Karma is relative; it only exists relative to a
(2) Karma is the adjustment of effects flowing from causes...
Here we have Karma as the Law of Causality which is a rather
typical way of looking at it.
(3) Karma is an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe
to restore equilibrium, and it operates incessantly.
I personally like this definition of Karma as a balance of
opposing forces (both cosmic and personal). Carl Jung describes
the psyche as a field in which libido (psychic energy) seeks a
balance between opposing forces such as spirit and instincts.
This definition helps us see Karma in terms of psychology and
physics (where entropy also seeks a balance). However, I would
omit the word "unerring" in this definition as this notion is
purely subjective. Who, for example, is wise enough among us to
know if errors occur or not - no one and so any "unerring"
business will have to be accepted on faith.
(6) Karma is not subject to time, and therefore he who knows what
is the ultimate division of time in this Universe knows Karma.
Here again is the business of Karma being outside of time. I
think that we have to look at this here as the idea of Karma
being extended over many lifetimes so that it seems' timeless to
the ego. Again, I hope that this definition is not intending to
say that Karma is outside of space-time (and thus some kind of
divine law). I think that its pretty safe to say that the
ultimate division of time is no-time or the timeless present
(although why this seems such a mystery is beyond me). My own
study and experience indicate to me that when consciousness
raises above space-time, it leaves Karma behind and "sees" Karma
as a governing law over the cosmos - our space-time solar system
- and lasting only so long as this manvantara (which is pretty
(7) For all other men Karma is in its essential nature unknown
and unknowable. (8) But its action may be known by calculation
from cause to effect...
Here I have a problem. Aphorisms 6, 7, and 8 are saying that
Adepts can know Karma fully, while for the rest of us its
workings remain forever unknowable. This smacks of determinism,
albeit if only for Adepts. During the turn of this century,
mathematicians were convinced that if only they knew all of the
laws of physics that governed this world, they could explain
everything, and predict future events with mathematical
certainty. This desire is a natural one for the human mind which
seeks knowledge. The concept was formulated in the worldview of
our world as a mechanical clockwork, albeit a complex one. Kurt
Godel, a mathematician and friend of Einstein, burst this bubble
with the famous theorm that bears his name. This theory says
that there is no "decision algorithm" for the truth or falsity of
arithmatical statements. You cannot, for example, write a
computer program that will always tell you if a statement is true
or false. In short, his theorem says that mathematics has
inherent limitations and that science will never be able to fully
explain our world mathematically. In the same way, I don't think
that theosophy (or any other religion or philosophy) can fully
explain all of life because Godel's theorem can be extended to
imply that all languages are inherently limited (mathematics is a
language like any other). I do not think that Adepts, no matter
how advanced, can possibly know all of one's karma, or predict
any future event with full certainty (high probability perhaps
(12) Karmic causes already set in motion must be allowed to sweep
on until exhausted...
Here is a potential problem. We are too apt to see this as
saying that Karma can never be eliminated; that the Wheel of Life
must roll on forever. I agree with this idea up to a point. But
the very desire to tread the path will cause much of one's stored
karma to be vented.
(28) No man but a sage or true seer can judge another's Karma.
This aphorism misses the point - once a seer gets to this exalted
stage, he or she will no longer have any desire to judge anyone.
I do not believe that a spiritual Adept will judge another person
one way or another. Spirituality is non-judgemental. Meanwhile,
lesser Adepts and Initiates cannot know all of the karmic burden
of a person, and so should not judge. Either way, judging others
is always a mayavic action and is best avoided.
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application