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Re: More thoughts on abortion

Sep 24, 1995 10:25 PM
by John R Crocker

On Mon, 25 Sep 1995, Eldon B. Tucker wrote:
> But I would say that karma is not deterministic. Our karma has made us what
> we are today. The "karmic content" is really the living relationships that
> we hold, deep in our natures, with others. Coming into birth may be by
> chance in the sense that when we are ready to be born, we are drawn to
> suitable parents. The parents are suitable because of their natures being
> sympathetic to our own. We'd have to study the particular past-life history
> of both the child and the parents to see how much this attraction resulted
> from previous experiences together, in past lifetimes, and how much we are
> talking about establishing a new relationship with unfamiliar, but
> compatible people.

My point exactly ... that using "karma" as an argument for or
against a particular behaviour in general is a very difficult proposition
- as knowledge of the personal connections unfolding over centuries, even
millenia, would be necessary.

> >That is, just as (again, if one operates
> >within the "karma" paradigm) many births into bad families or brutal
> >cultures are explained by saying that the child "knew" the conditions and
> >"chose" them, so (it seems) it might equally be said that some incoming
> >souls "chose" the experience of abortion - either to "pay off" past
> >karma, or for other reasons.
> This seems to over-simplify the idea of karma. We are not responsible for
> the actions of others. We may know that they are predisposed to certain types
> of action, like so-and-so has an explosive temper. But we are not responsible
> for that person's temper, and have not associated ourselves with that person
> because we're looking forward to experiencing it.

Agreed - but the post I was responding to seemed to be using a
very simplified view of karma.

> The choice of parents is like the choice of friends. When we go to
> a new place, and meet new people, perhaps some of them will end up
> being friends. How do we choose those friends? How much of it is
> old karmic ties being reactivated, and how much is new ties being
> forged? We'd have to be able to read the past to really tell, but
> that doesn't help much, because in a certain sense *the past does
> not exist*! What exists of the past is in terms of *living content*
> in our Shandhas and consciousness, and so it is a moot point, from this
> point of view, if the karma is based upon old or newly-formed ties with other
> people.

This is your reading of karmic links, but even on this list there
is a wide diversity of views on what karma is and how it works - heence
(again) the point I was making, that the "law" of karma is a tricky one
to use to try to justify a particular position on a current issue. I
personally don't believe in the law of karma, as articulated in spiritual
literature, but am beginning to try to formulate another principle that
would produce, as aftereffects, many of the phenomena associated with
"karma". But I certainly would not presume to pass judgement on the
actions of other based upon that paradigm.

> >Very difficult to ascribe to the incoming
> >soul a remarkable enough prophetic insight to be able to "choose" the
> >parents, economic status, culture & etc. and somehow also be alledged to
> >be blind to the probabilty of the parent/parents having an abortion.
> When we say that we choose our parents, we are using terms we understand
> to describe a process and state of consciousness that is outside the
> experience of our normal, waking personality. How are we prophetic enough
> to pick the right spouse?

Apparently many people are not (-:).

> >> Rather, abortion seems destructive all around.
> >And you will never have to experience trying to raise a child alone
> >with no education and nothing but poverty conditions even without a child.
> It's hard to pass judgement on the quality of life of a child-to-be, based
> upon the economic status of its western parent or parents. Even the worest
> conditions in America are better than in some countries. I've heard examples
> on the news, for instance, how in a famine in Africa a mother may have to let
> one of her two babies die, because she does not have enough breast milk to
> feed both of them.

Yes, I agree ... and the post I was responding to, as well as a
large political movement in this country, *is* passing judgement on the
experience of individuals. And I have a bit of experience in ghettos -
and telling someone in inner city Detroit that despite their poverty,
they should not have an abortion because, after all, there are people in
Africa whose poverty is far more brutal won't go very far.

> When we start to judge quality of life based upon an
> arbitrary standard that we set up (and I'm not saying that you're doing so
> here), we are going too far in forcing our judgements on others. Should
> retarded or mentally-ill women be sterilized? Should the state impose
> abortions based upon the economic policy of the land (like China with its
> women)? The decision needs to be carefully made by the mother, but I'm
> not sure that economic reasons are sufficient justification for the decision
> to have an abortion.

Yes! Exactly! The decision needs to be made *by the Mother* - who
should not have to care whether you, or I, or anyone else thinks her
reasons are "justified".

> >Additionally, our species' population problem is also immensely
> >destructive, and to many lifeforms *other* than those within our own kingdom.
> I expect that the human population won't be able to grow at its current
> rate, but will reach a maximum, then decline, with an onset of either
> infertility or some diseases and natural disasters to bring the population
> back down. Nature adjustes itself, and too big a percentage of the human
> lifewave in birth at any moment of time won't be tolerated.

Yes, I believe (as most ecological science does) that large
disasters loom, and the chance of major die-offs are becoming likely -
*unless* our species has the foresight to *voluntarily* limit its growth,
in which case such thing very well might be avoided.

> >> Does this mean we should go around making women who have had or will
> >> have abortions feel miserable? No, this would be cruel.
> >Right ... and it is only your opinion that abortion is wrong;
> Most people would agree that it is wrong, but not in an absolute sense
> where other factors cannot come into play, and lead to a balanced, perhaps
> heart-rending decision for or against it in a particular situation.

I'm not sure about the "most people" statement, but I agree with
your point, that ethics can be absolute principles, but actual decisions
are commonly composed of weighing a whole number of factors, and often
deciding which of several *conflicting* principles to weigh more heavily.
Again, who but the Mother has standing to make the decision?

> >as Liesel so well stated, women are not chattel - who are men, who will
> >never have to have an abortion, nor will ever be able to fully grasp the
> >subjective state behind that decision, to chose to make women feel bad or
> >not feel bad?
> A woman who has not had an abortion *in this lifetime* is in the same
> position as a man. We've all had lifetimes as women, and had the various
> experiences of childbirth and childrearing. Women not having been put to
> the real-life situation of choosing an abortion are in the same position
> as men, physical plumbing notwithstanding.

Agreed - hence the previous point ... it is the one wrestling
with the decision whose perspective is relevant.

> Agreed that women are not chattel, nor are men "meal tickets". There are
> many social roles that are pressured upon us by current society. We can
> play the roles or improvise our own manner of living.

Yes. I believe an entirely new model of male/female roles &
attitudes is not only in order, but beginning to be articulated.

> >The curious thing is that the vast number of people
> >currently in power, who are deciding whether abortion is "right" or
> >"wrong", are men - who generally speak as though their standing to make
> >such decisions isn't even open to question.
> Blavatsky was not a man. The ideas that Theosophy are based upon do not come
> from the particular social order of any particular society. We cann't use
> the shortcomings of modern society or of some culture in the recent past to
> bias our thinking.

No, HPB was not a man, but never had children, had (apparently)
little interest in biological reproduction, and in addition was for
whatever reason free of the dominance of the man in the home at the time
(very few women fought in *wars*). The ideas in Theosophy may be
timeless, but HPB's opinions were not necessarily timeless, and the
expression of those timeless ideas certainly were spoken in the language
of the time, and spoke to many of the assumptions (scientific and
religious) of the time. And yes, your last sentence is exactly the point
I was trying to make: That things are *different* now - *population* is
the single largest environmental problem facing the globe, and even as we
speak is badly damaging many other species. It is, IMO, bizarre for
Theosophy to speak so strongly for vegetarianism, so strongly about not
taking the *individual* lives of individual animals, and to be so
curiously silent about the large scale extinction of entire *species*.


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