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.
Though we do not know what Karma is per se, and in its essence, we do know how it works, and we can define and describe its mode of action with accuracy. To make the working of Karma, in the periodical renovations of the Universe, more evident and intelligible to the student The question is, do those mysterious divisions of time, called Yugas and Kalpas by the Hindus, and so very graphically "cycle," ring or circle, by the Greeks, have any bearing upon, or any direct connection with, human life?
Even exoteric philosophy explains that these perpetual circles of time are ever returning on themselves, periodically, and intelligently in Space and Eternity. There are "Cycles of matter" and there are "Cycles of Spiritual evolution. May not esoteric speculation allow us a still deeper insight into the workings of these?
There is a predestination in the geological life of our globe, as in the history, past and future, of races and nations. This will be the cycle of our special "Round" a moment in the duration of the great cycle, or the Mahayuga. As our planet revolves once every year around the sun, and at the same time turns once in every twenty-four hours upon its own axis, thus traversing minor circles within a larger one, so is the work of the smaller cyclic periods accomplished and recommenced, within the Great Saros.
The revolution of the physical world, according to the ancient doctrine, is attended by a like revolution in the world of intellect -- the spiritual evolution of the world proceeding in cycles, like the physical one.
Thus we see in history a regular alternation of ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from which it had before descended.
But these cycles -- wheels within wheels, so comprehensively and ingeniously symbolized by the various Manus and Rishis in India, and by the Kabiri in the West -- do not affect all mankind at one and the same time. Hence, as we see, the difficulty of comprehending, and discriminating between them, with regard to their physical and spiritual effects, without having thoroughly mastered their relations with, and action upon the respective positions of nations and races, in their destiny and evolution.
This system cannot be comprehended if the spiritual action of these periods -- preordained, so to say, by Karmic law -- is separated from their physical course. The Grand Cycle includes the progress of mankind from the appearance of primordial man of ethereal form. It runs through the inner cycles of his man's progressive evolution from the ethereal down to the semi-ethereal and purely physical: down to the redemption of man from his coat of skin and matter, after which it continues running its course downward and then upward again, to meet at the culmination of a Round, when the manvantaric "Serpent swallows its tail" and seven minor cycles are passed.
These are the great Racial Cycles which affect equally all the nations and tribes included in that special Race; but there are minor and national as well as tribal cycles within those, which run independently of each other. They are called in the Eastern esotericism the Karmic cycles. And as unwise they, who believe that the goddess may be propitiated by whatever sacrifices and prayers, or have her wheel diverted from the path it has once taken.
There is no return from the paths she cycles over; yet those paths are of our own making, for it is we, collectively or individually, who prepare them. An Occultist or a philosopher will not speak of the goodness or cruelty of Providence; but, identifying it with Karma-Nemesis, he will teach that nevertheless it guards the good and watches over them in this, as in future lives; and that it punishes the evil-doer -- aye, even to his seventh rebirth. So long, in short, as the effect of his having thrown into perturbation even the smallest atom in the Infinite World of harmony, has not been finally readjusted.
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. We describe Karma as that Law of readjustment 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.
Think now of a pond.
A stone falls into the water and creates disturbing waves. These waves oscillate backwards and forwards till at last, owing to the operation of what physicists call the law of the dissipation of energy, they are brought to rest, and the water returns to its condition of calm tranquility. Similarly all action, on every plane, produces disturbance in the balanced harmony of the Universe, and the vibrations so produced will continue to roll backwards and forwards, if its area is limited, till equilibrium is restored. But since each such disturbance starts from some particular point, it is clear that equilibrium and harmony can only be restored by reconverging to that same point of all the forces which were set in motion from it.
And here you have proof that the consequences of a man's deeds, thoughts, etc. Nor would the ways of Karma be inscrutable were men to work in union and harmony, instead of disunion and strife. For our ignorance of those ways -- which one portion of mankind calls the ways of Providence, dark and intricate; while another sees in them the action of blind Fatalism; and a third, simple chance, with neither gods nor devils to guide them -- would surely disappear, if we would but attribute all these to their correct cause.
With right knowledge, or at any rate with a confident conviction that our neighbours will no more work to hurt us than we would think of harming them, two-thirds of the World's evil would vanish into thin air. Were no man to hurt his brother, Karma-Nemesis would have neither cause to work for, nor weapons to act through. It is the constant presence in our midst of every element of strife and opposition, and the division of races, nations, tribes, societies and individuals into Cains and Abels, wolves and lambs, that is the chief cause of the "ways of Providence.
We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the riddles of life that we will not solve and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us. But verily there is not an accident in our lives, not a mishapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or in another life.
Questions with regard to Karma and rebirths are constantly offered, and a great confusion seems to exist upon this subject. Those who are born and bred in the Christian faith, and have been trained in the idea that a new soul is created by God for every newly-born infant, are among the most perplexed. They ask whether in such case the number of incarnating Monads on Earth is limited; to which they are answered in the affirmative. It was stated that Karma-Nemesis, whose bond-maiden is Nature, adjusted everything in the most harmonious manner; and that therefore, the fresh pouring-in, or arrival of new Monads, had ceased as soon as Humanity had reached its full physical development.
No fresh Monads have incarnated since the middle point of the Atlanteans. Hence, remembering that, save in the case of young children, and of individuals whose lives were violently cut off by some accident, no Spiritual Entity can reincarnate before a period of many centuries has elapsed, such gaps alone must show that the number of Monads is necessarily finite and limited. Hence the assertion that many of us are now working off the effects of the evil Karmic causes produced by us in Atlantean bodies.
For, when one unacquainted with the noble doctrine looks around him, and observes the inequalities of birth and fortune, of intellect and capacities; when one sees honour paid fools and profligates, on whom fortune has heaped her favours by mere privilege of birth, and their nearest neighbour, with all his intellect and noble virtues -- far more deserving in every way -- perishing of want and for lack of sympathy; when one sees all this and has to turn away, helpless to relieve the undeserved suffering, one's ears ringing and heart aching with the cries of pain around him -- that blessed knowledge of Karma alone prevents him from cursing life and men, as well as their supposed Creator.
Of all the terrible blasphemies and accusations virtually thrown on their God by the Monotheists, none is greater or more unpardonable than that almost always false humility which makes the presumably "pious" Christian assert, in connection with every evil and undeserved blow, that "such is the will of God. Compare this blind faith with the philosophical belief, based on every reasonable evidence and life-experience, in Karma-Nemesis, or the Law of Retribution.
Reincarnation: The Cycle of Necessity
It is not the Wave which drowns a man, but the personal action of the wretch, who goes deliberately and places himself under the impersonal action of the laws that govern the Ocean's motion. If it happens to dislocate the arm that tried to bend it out of its natural position, shall we say that it is the bough which broke our arm, or that our own folly has brought us to grief? Intimately, or rather indissolubly, connected with Karma, then, is the law of rebirth, or of the reincarnation of the same spiritual individuality in a long, almost interminable, series of personalities.
The inner or real man, who personates those characters, knows the whole time that he is Hamlet for the brief space of a few acts, which represent, however, on the plane of human illusion the whole life of Hamlet. In actual life that ignorance is unfortunately, but too real. We distinguish between the simple fact of self-consciousness, the simple feeling that "I am I," and the complex thought that "I am Mr. Smith," or "Mrs. Smith" really means a long series of daily experiences strung together by the thread of memory, and forming what Mr.
Smith calls "himself. Smith" the feeling that he is himself, for he forgets the greater part of his daily experiences, and they produce the feeling of Egoity in him only while they last.
Reincarnation and Karma by H.P. Blavatsky
We Theosophists, therefore, distinguish between this bundle of "experiences," which we call the false because so finite and evanescent personality, and that element in man to which the feeling of "I am I" is due. It is this "I am I" which we call the true individuality; and we say that this "Ego" or individuality plays, like an actor, many parts on the stage of life. Is it this Ego then which is our God? Not at all: "A God" is not the universal deity, but only a spark from the one ocean of Divine Fire.
Our incarnating Ego was a God in its origin, as were all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its "fall into Matter," having to incarnate throughout the cycle, in succession, from first to last, it is no longer a free and happy god, but a poor pilgrim on his way to regain that which he has lost. II, From the remotest antiquity mankind as a whole have always been convinced of the existence of a personal spiritual entity within the personal physical man.
This inner entity was more or less divine, according to its proximity to the crown. The closer the union the more serene man's destiny, the less dangerous the external conditions.