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No Religion Higher Than Truth

Karma In Theosophy

BNet Newsletter
by Reed Carson
April, 2005

Dear Member of Blavatsky Net,

Two months ago, this newsletter opened a discussion of reincarnation. The twin doctrine to reincarnation is the doctrine of karma. Reincarnation provides the venue for working out the law of karma. Without reincarnation, karma does not have the room to operate. Conversely, karma provides a necessary ingredient to make this a sensible universe. It changes reincarnation from a doctrine proposing only a mere repetition of lives to a doctrine that offers the structure for progress, meaning and significance for our lives.

Working together, the doctrines of reincarnation and karma provide the basis for a vista of spiritual evolution that offers endless progress and ever increasing perfection. These doctrines also offer us a way to understand the events of our daily lives from a much larger perspective.

It was the efforts of the Theosophical movement in the late 19th century that brought this doctrine of Karma to the attention of the West. So this month’s newsletter brings out some of the quotes on Karma in Theosophy that gave the momentum to this idea that we now so much take for granted in the “new age”.


We believe in an unerring law of Retribution, called KARMA, which asserts itself in a natural concatenation of causes and their unavoidable results. (Key To Theosophy p. 140)

For the only decree of Karma – an eternal and immutable decree – is absolute Harmony in the world of matter as it is in the world of Spirit. It is not, therefore, Karma that rewards or punishes, but it is we, who reward or punish ourselves according to whether we work with, through
and along with nature, abiding by the laws on which that Harmony depends, or – break them. (Secret Doctrine, Vol I, p.643)

But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or in another life. If one breaks the laws of Harmony, or, as a
theosophical writer expresses it, “the laws of life,” one must be prepared to fall into the chaos one has oneself produced. (Secret Doctrine, Vol I, p. 643-44)

Our idea of the unknown Universal Deity, represented by Karma, is that it is a Power which cannot fail, and can, therefore, have neither wrath nor mercy, only absolute Equity, which leaves every cause, great or small, to work out its inevitable effects. The saying of Jesus: “With what measure you mete it shall be measured to you again” (Matth. vii., 2), neither by expression nor implication points to any hope of future mercy or salvation by proxy. (Key To Theosophy pp. 199-200)

This Law — whether Conscious or Unconscious — predestines nothing and no one. It exists from and in Eternity, truly, for it is ETERNITY itself; and as such, since no act can be co-equal with eternity, it cannot be said to act, for it is ACTION itself … Karma creates nothing, nor does it design. It is man who plans and creates causes, and Karmic law adjusts the effects; which adjustment is not an act, but universal harmony,
tending ever to resume its original position… (Secret Doctrine, Vol II, p. 304-05)

KARMA is an Absolute and Eternal law in the World of manifestation; and as there can only be one Absolute, as One eternal ever present Cause, believers in Karma cannot be regarded as Atheists or materialists—still less as fatalists. (The Secret Doctrine, Vol II, p. 305)

Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man…. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable rock, or carries him away like a feather in a whirlwind raised by his own actions, and this is – KARMA. (Secret Doctrine, vol 1, p. 639)

(From “The Key to Theosophy” by Blavatsky):


ENQUIRER. But what is Karma?

THEOSOPHIST. As I have said, we consider it as the Ultimate Law of the Universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist throughout Nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable. (Key To Theosophy, p. 201)

ENQUIRER. Well, then, tell me generally how you describe this law of Karma?

THEOSOPHIST. We describe Karma as that Law of re-adjustment which ever tends to restore disturbed equilibrium in the physical, and broken harmony in the moral world. We say that Karma does not act in this or that particular way always; but that it always does act so as to restore Harmony and preserve the balance of equilibrium, in virtue of which the Universe exists. (Key To Theosophy p. 205-06)

THEOSOPHIST. Karma, the universal law of retributive justice.

ENQUIRER. Is it an intelligent law?

THEOSOPHIST. For the Materialist, who calls the law of periodicity which regulates the marshalling of the several bodies, and all the other laws in nature, blind forces and mechanical laws, no doubt Karma would be a law of chance and no more. For us, no adjective or qualification could describe that which is impersonal and no entity, but a universal operative law. If you question me about the causative intelligence in it, I must answer you I do not know. But if you ask me to define its effects and tell you what these are in our belief, I may say that the experience of thousands of ages has shown us that they are absolute and unerring equity, wisdom, and intelligence. For Karma in its effects is an unfailing redresser of human injustice, and of all the failures of nature; a stern adjuster of wrongs; a retributive law which rewards and punishes with equal impartiality. It is, in the strictest sense, “no respecter of persons,” though, on the other hand, it can neither be propitiated, nor turned aside by prayer. (Key To Theosophy p. 198)


Quotes by William Q. Judge from “The Ocean Of Theosophy”:

Karma…one of the most important of the laws of nature. Ceaseless in its operation, it bears alike upon planets, systems of planets, races, nations, families, and individuals. It is the twin doctrine to reincarnation. So inextricably interlaced are these two laws that it is almost impossible to properly consider one apart from the other. No spot or being in the universe is exempt from the operation of Karma, but all are under its sway, punished for error by it yet beneficently led on, through discipline, rest, and reward, to the distant heights of perfection. It is a law so comprehensive in its sweep, embracing at once our physical and our moral being.(Ocean p. 89)

Applied to man’s moral life it is the law of ethical causation, justice, reward and punishment; the cause for birth and rebirth, yet equally the means for escape from incarnation. Viewed from another point it is merely effect flowing from cause, action and reaction, exact result for every thought and act. It is act and the result of act; for the word’s literal meaning is action. (Ocean p.89)

It is not a being but a law, the universal law of harmony which unerringly restores all disturbance to equilibrium. (Ocean p. 89-90)

Reed Carson

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