THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 9, July, 1964
(Pages 264-266; Size: 9K)


[Article number (21) in this Department]

The fact that so few people are able to "get behind" appearances -- either in events or in men -- seems to be a continuing cause of confusion. Is it possible that a concept of Karma might help one penetrate these outward appearances?

Students of Theosophy are convinced that the idea of Karma helps more than anything else to illuminate the relationships between human beings. In the first place, an understanding of the law of Karma enables us to temporarily accept the restrictions, the "checks," that life places on an individual. In the second place, there is no alembic like the philosophy of Karma to encourage us to get behind our own façade of personality. For, though we are "true selves" in potentia, we tend to be fixated on one particular image of self, and thus see everything through the distorted perspective of its biases and preconceptions. It is only when we are able to "take our personality with a large grain of salt," as the philosopher Ducasse has put it, that we begin to look beyond this "self-image" -- the superficial image we press upon the world because it enables us to have an inflated opinion of our own status or accomplishments. And this image is, after all, pleasing to only a certain part of our nature. The present "personality" has to be seen against the backdrop of a being within, who is not concerned with images, pretenses (conscious or unconscious), or self-gratulation, but is concerned only with things that nourish the "soul" -- that is, whatever integrates with true destiny.

The sense of destiny is encouraged in a man as he studies Karma. He then considers his own inner life within the framework of all the experiences he has gone through -- all his mismanagements of affairs and all his mistakes in relationships with people -- and comes to accept them as opportunities for making meaningful corrections of the distortions of his perspective. He sees that the distortions are not himself -- not even the self he might become during this lifetime. Realizing this, he can look at others in the same way, and begin to see faint reflections of egoic purpose, however distorted they may be by ego-involved personality patterns. He learns not to take another person merely on the basis of what he is able to manifest at any given time, for he understands that just as he, himself, is able to manifest and destroy innumerable personalities, so is the other.

Perhaps we don't "like" someone. The perspective of karma suggests that the fault may be his, or ours, or both, and that beyond this immediate, personal, reaction is the "long view" -- the view of soul. When we sense this, we see that someone who is always disturbed by his situation, who feels that the circumstances of his life are unfair, needs only to alter his perspective. But this takes time. At first, "karma" and "reincarnation" are only words to him; and so long as he thinks of karma as "fate," his lot is "bad karma." Eventually, however, he begins to recognize that karma implies an assumption of continuity in responsibility. From this comes continuity of motivation, which means assimilation of experience.

Karma, for such a person, then, becomes something quite different -- the opposite of fate, which is destiny. It may take a lifetime of experience before the idea which came intellectually reaches the heart to be assimilated, but this is the dynamic of the philosophy of karma, and it works out in psychological terms.

The core of our personal problem is clearly the problem of the image of self versus the faceless self within; and it is in the solution of this problem that the Bhagavad-Gita gives profound psychological assistance. The Gita introduces us to three dominant psychological qualities, which we can see in all human beings. The first of these, the quality of tamas, reflects indifference to any kind of striving. Dominated by tamas, we are so preoccupied with our immediate situation that we cannot act. The energy that is ours as "soul" is unable to manifest because we are fixated in this particular way. (Here we may remind ourselves that H.P.B. said that inertia is the greatest of all occult forces.) But the experiences of life will finally shake us out of our lethargy, and, as we try to liberate ourselves, we begin to embody the next quality -- rajas. Polarized in rajas, we gradually awaken to a sense of the power within us, and we act -- we do something. The danger now is that we may think that action is all-important. But this, too, is a delusion, and we have to see it as such. We have to realize that action unconnected with meaning binds us in a composite result of all the things we have done that are not sufficiently meaningful for soul-assimilation. We have to work through and past the karma of the "rajasic man."

Finally, we move on to another stage -- the sattvic. Our desire now is toward the personification of a kind of goodness; but the egocentric position is still predominant, remaining so as long as we are influenced by any one or all of the three qualities.

We have observed, of course, that the men who have transcended the egocentric predicament and liberated the truly creative forces within the self are happy in the real sense of the word. It doesn't matter where they go or what they do; they always seem to know what they are about. These human beings have followed an opposite course to that of the fixated man; they have been trying to expand the meaning of life, instead of contracting it around a single self or person. They have always found things to do with and for others; have learned from these others; have made their karma also their own. Thus the pace of their initiation into the deeper meanings of life has been accelerated by the natural empathy they have established with other human beings. They progress rapidly, and are a source of inspiration to others.

So the philosophy of Karma universalizes. Every man's problem is everyone else's, in a certain sense. The self out there and the self over here and myself are parts of one self, because we have all incarnated, and will continue to incarnate, in similar complexities of personality. The purview of Karma not only provides a tool for acquiring self-knowledge; it also furnishes a compelling impulsion toward awareness of brotherhood. [Note: This discussion continues in the next article, number 22, as some more questions are asked and answered.--Compiler.]

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Karma is that moral kernel (of any being) which alone survives death and continues in transmigration or reincarnation. This simply means that there remains nought after each Personality but the causes produced by it -- causes which are undying, which cannot be eliminated from the Universe until replaced by their legitimate effects. No "personality" -- a mere bundle of material atoms and of instinctual and mental characteristics -- can of course continue, as such, in the world of pure Spirit. Only that which is immortal in its very nature and divine in its essence, namely, the Ego, can exist for ever. 

--The Theosophical Glossary

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(November 1964)
[Article number (22) in this Department]

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