The Unseen Effects of Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment – the legally authorised killing of a person as punishment for a specific crime – has numerous unseen and unsuspected effects, according to the Esoteric Philosophy known as Theosophy, and these effects are very serious and far reaching.

Fortunately, since the Theosophical teachings were given to the world and since coming under the astrological occult influence of a New Age, namely the Cycle of Aquarius, the death penalty or capital punishment has greatly declined in its usage across the world. At the end of the 19th century, the time that H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge were writing, it was far more widespread than now.

In the UK it has not occurred since 1964 and is now abolished. As of 2018, it is abolished throughout the whole of Europe, with the exception of Belarus and the Eurasian nation of Kazakhstan. Currently, 95% of all known capital punishments take place in six countries of the world, namely the USA, China, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it is not coincidental that five of those six countries are strongly under the influence of Abrahamic religions.

Let us now see what Theosophy has to say about this subject…

First of all, in the June 1890 issue of her magazine “Lucifer” H. P. Blavatsky wrote the following, under the title “CAPITAL PUNISHMENT”:

“We are . . . opposed to capital punishment . . . In the first place the “head” only of the juryman has to decide whether or not the accused has committed murder, and this is all the so-called “law” requires of him. Practically, however, since the juryman has, or ought to have, a “heart,” the law neglects an important factor in the problem, for if it punishes murder with death, the juryman, in deciding for a verdict of guilty, of necessity becomes an accessory in a fresh murder. But the “heart” of the people is beginning to protest against this “eye for an eye” code and is refusing to render evil for evil. Capital punishment is nothing but a relic of Jewish barbarity. So that we are of opinion that this feeling should be fostered by open protest on every occasion, and by a refusal to participate in such half-human proceedings. The true physician cures the disease, and does not kill his patient. But we are afraid that the murder-doctors are in the majority for the moment, so that we can only protest.”

Her closest colleague William Q. Judge wrote at some length about what actually happens on unseen levels when the death penalty is exacted.

In the book “Forum Answers” we find him saying that –

“legal murder or execution of criminals . . . is a very great danger – one of the unseen but powerful curses of the times. An executed criminal’s death is the same as that of one who is accidentally killed in effect, only that it is deliberately done, and in most cases the elements of hate, revenge, and anger in the criminal are added. His fierce and angry personality -compound of astral body and Kama – is thrust suddenly out of life; his higher principles wait in upper Kama Loka in a benumbed or torpid state [i.e. he will be reunited with the higher and more truly spiritual and divine components of his being only later on in the after-death stages and processes]; but his personal life flits about the abodes of men, attempting to get revenge or to do other wicked things, and every day injects into the sensitive human natures it meets all its mass of vile and unappeasable thoughts. It thus creates picture after picture of murder and hate. Mediums are not the only ones affected by these astral personages; indeed, they are often too closely associated with other sorts of shells, and the personality of the criminal has definite attractions towards other persons. Is it any wonder, then, that the Theosophist who has worked out our doctrines of man’s nature to their proper conclusions should deplore the custom of executing criminals? He knows that one legal execution may and nearly always does lead to many another sudden murder or suicide. And as the astral personalities of suicides and executed criminals are in closer touch with us than any other sort of spook, it follows that they also are more likely to come first to any Spiritualistic séance. All those who respect the suggestions of H.P.B. will be interested to know that the above was her own view, often given to me, and further certified as reasonable by Adepts who can see the facts behind the scenes.” (p. 48-49)

And later, on p. 113-114: “capital punishment is both useless and injurious. It is as great an injustice to the world of beings left unexecuted as to the one so violently sent out of life. They used to kill men in England for stealing a ten-penny nail or a loaf of bread, but thieves and thieving did not lessen. Murders have not decreased. In the country districts executions are means for brutalizing the people, who make a hanging an occasion for a gala gathering in order to see a man legally killed. But theosophically it is far worse. The fact that the sudden killing is legal makes no difference with the laws of nature. The man is suddenly cut off from his body, and, just like a suicide, is condemned to be a “spook.” He is dead so far as the body is concerned, but is astrally alive. Worse than a suicide, he is filled with hate and revenge which he must wreak on some one. At first he is not able to do much, but soon he finds that there are sensitive persons on the earth who can be filled with his vicious and raging passions. These poor souls are then influenced to commit crimes; being filled mentally – from the inner planes – with the ideas and passions of the criminal, they are at last moved to do what their mind is filled with. The executed criminal does not have to know what is going on, for his raging passions, untouched by the executioner, excite and influence of themselves whoever is sensitive to them. This is why many a crime is suddenly committed by weak persons who appear to be carried away by an outside force. It seems hardly possible that anyone could believe in theosophical and occult doctrines and at the same time commend capital punishment.”

And in 1895 he wrote a full article on this subject, titled “Theosophy and Capital Punishment,” which says in part:

“From ignorance of the truth about man’s real nature and faculties and their action and condition after bodily death, a number of evils flow. The effect of such want of knowledge is much wider than the concerns of one or several persons. Government and the administration of human justice under man-made laws will improve in proportion as there exists a greater amount of information on this all-important subject. When a wide and deep knowledge and belief in respect to the occult side of nature and of man shall have become the property of the people then may we expect a great change in the matter of capital punishment.

“The killing of a human being by the authority of the state is morally wrong and also an injury to all the people; no criminal should be executed no matter what the offence.

“. . . for the Theosophist the term violent as applied to death must mean more than it does to those who do not hold theosophical views. For the latter, a violent death is distinguished from an easy natural one solely by the violence used against the victim. But for us such a death is the violent separation of the man from his body, and is a serious matter, of interest to the whole state. It creates in fact a paradox, for such persons are not dead; they remain with us as unseen criminals, able to do harm to the living and to cause damage to the whole of Society.

“What happens? All the onlooker sees is that the sudden cutting off is accomplished; but what of the reality? A natural death is like the falling of a leaf near the winter time. The time is fully ripe, all the powers of the leaf having separated; those acting no longer, its stem has but a slight hold on the branch and the slightest wind takes it away. So with us; we begin to separate our different inner powers and parts one from the other because their full term has ended, and when the final tremor comes the various inner component parts of the man fall away from each other and let the soul go free. But the poor criminal has not come to the natural end of his life. His astral body is not ready to separate from his physical body, nor is the vital, nervous energy [i.e. Prana] ready to leave. The entire inner man is closely knit together, and he is the reality. I have said these parts are not ready to separate – they are in fact not able to separate because they are bound together by law and a force over which only great Nature has control.

“When then the mere physical body is so treated that a sudden, premature separation from the real man is effected, he is merely dazed for a time, after which he wakes up in the atmosphere of the earth [i.e. the psychic atmosphere which surrounds and interpenetrates our physical earth; also known as the astral plane or astral light and more specifically, when speaking of after-death states, Kama Loka], fully a sentient living being save for the body. He sees the people, he sees and feels again the pursuit of him by the law. His passions are alive. He has become a raging fire, a mass of hate; the victim of his fellows and of his own crime. Few of us are able, even under favorable circumstances, to admit ourselves as wholly wrong and to say that punishment inflicted on us by man is right and just, and the criminal has only hate and desire for revenge.

“If now we remember that his state of mind was made worse by his trial and execution, we can see that he has become a menace to the living. Even if he be not so bad and full of revenge as said, he is himself the repository of his own deeds; he carries with him into the astral realm surrounding us the pictures of his crimes, and these are ever living creatures, as it were. In any case he is dangerous. Floating as he does in the very realm in which our mind and senses operate, he is forever coming in contact with the mind and senses of the living. More people than we suspect are nervous and sensitive. If these sensitives are touched by this invisible criminal they have injected into them at once the pictures of his crime and punishment, the vibrations from his hate, malice and revenge. Like creates like, and thus these vibrations create their like. Many a person has been impelled by some unknown force to commit crime; and that force came from such an inhabitant of our sphere. . . .

“The Theosophist . . . will oppose capital punishment. He sees it is unjust to the living, a danger to the state, and that it allows no chance whatever for any reformation of the criminal.” (The entire article is today published by Theosophy Company, on behalf of the United Lodge of Theosophists, in “William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles” Vol. 2, p. 362-365 and WQJ Pamphlet #23 “Theosophical Study and Practice.”)

For those who are already metaphysically inclined, these details will not sound especially unreasonable or implausible. For those who may be somewhat sceptical, however, let the following facts be considered, which for the Theosophist stand as supporting evidence of the reality of these teachings…

* In the USA states which do not have the death penalty, the murder rate is consistently lower than in those states which do have it.

* The USA has four main regions: North, South, East, and West. It is in the South that over 80% of the country’s executions take place. But nonetheless it is the South which still has the highest murder rate of the four regions.

* The murder rate in the USA is statistically shown to be at least five times greater than in any Western European country, none of which have the death penalty.

Sometimes, when hearing of awful and horrendous crimes that have been committed, we might think or even say that we wish the death penalty did still exist here in the UK, so that someone who has wrought life-destroying and unspeakable crimes on another can be forcibly made to come to regret what they have done and be made to suffer in the same or worse way that they have caused others to suffer.

It is not abnormal to feel like this and indeed, for one who does not understand about reincarnation and the Law of Karma, it is almost the natural way to react.

Knowing about and understanding the operation of those principles, however, leads a person to see that the fullest justice will always be done and in the most perfectly orchestrated way…but not by man nor by any so-called “god” or “devil,” nor angel nor demon, but rather by and through the impersonal, automatically acting, law of cause and effect, action and reaction, sequence and consequence, that is inherently embedded within the very fabric of the Universe. No-one can or does deny its operation on the purely physical material level of being; Theosophy merely extends its operations to subtler and invisible levels, beyond the tangible reach of the physical senses of perception. This Law, known in the Sanskrit language as Karma, is the means whereby the Universe perpetually maintains its harmony, balance, and equilibrium.

For every cause set in motion – and we are all setting causes in motion every moment, not only with our physical bodily actions but also with our words, thoughts, and even feelings – there will be a corresponding correlative effect coming back to the cause-maker, i.e. its point of origin, and thus equalising things out.

Sometimes the most perfect circumstances for the full manifestation or fruition of the effect will not be until many decades in the future or even a subsequent lifetime. A myriad of factors are involved and it is not something easily predictable by the rational mind. For this reason blanket statements such as, to give just an example, “everyone who decapitates a victim will have their own head cut off” may not necessarily always apply. All we can say is that according to Karmic Law, perfect adjustment will always take place and always at the right time.

Our Theosophical teachings declare that –

“In the “Great Journey,” causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for rigid Justice rules the World. With mighty sweep of never erring action, it brings to mortals lives of weal or woe, the Karmic progeny of all our former thoughts and deeds.” (“The Voice of the Silence,” p. 34, original 1889 edition, translated by H. P. Blavatsky from the Book of the Golden Precepts)

It certainly does not appear that “rigid Justice rules the World” but for those whose gaze can pierce beyond physical material objectivity and perceive Karma and reincarnation in action everywhere around them, it is a known fact. It is interesting to note that both Jewish and Christian scriptures support, to a large extent, the points we are making here.

In Deuteronomy 32:35 “God” is presented as saying: “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.”

The Apostle Paul – if indeed he really was the author of the epistle to the Romans – writes in the New Testament: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath [i.e. allow place for “God’s wrath,” in the general Christian interpretation]; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:17-19)

Now it must be emphasised that the Law of Karma is not a God nor any type of personal being. It therefore does not feel emotions or think thoughts or consciously make plans as to how to adjust cause to effect. Or, as far better explained by HPB:

“. . . the law of Karma . . . is neither intelligence nor non-intelligence. . . . It does not act. It is our actions that act, and that awaken into all kinds of influences. Look here, if you say that Karma acts and you say it has intelligence, immediately you suggest the idea of a personal god. It is not so, because Karma does not see and Karma does not watch, and does not repent as the Lord God repented. Karma is a universal law, immutable and changeless. . . . Karma does not act any more than water drowns you. . . . Water does not drown you. You drown yourselves in the water. Don’t go into the water and you won’t get drowned. . . . It is simply if you do a certain thing, so the effect will be on a similar line. For instance, you will strike one note, and you know perfectly well what will be the consequence of that note. . . . It is perfect harmony and equilibrium.” (“The Secret Doctrine Dialogues” p. 576-578)

With this in mind – and the belief in a personal or anthropomorphic God out of mind – the esoteric interpretation of the above Bible verses becomes clear.

To refrain from exerting apparently due vengeance upon others does not mean, however, that no-one should be imprisoned. Prison – and in some cases life sentences – are undoubtedly sadly needed, on a continual basis. That much of the prison system is in dire need of reform is a fact which will not be gone into in this article. The point being made is simply that there is a big difference – both physically and metaphysically – between locking someone up and killing them. Mr Judge states:

“To my mind it appears that the crime of murder has not diminished because of capital punishment, nor do I think any law will ever stamp out that offense. Indeed, I know that the majority of Theosophists regard capital punishment as a greater evil than that which it is directed against. But as Theosophists we have not much to do with such a question, since it lies in the domain of government. Our duty is to teach those ethics and that philosophy which alone will remedy the evil by raising men above the possibility of committing crime or becoming amenable to law. If we waste our energies in attempting reforms on the surface, either in law or in politics, a great opportunity will slip away before we know it.” (“Forum Answers” p. 29-30)

To repeat what was said in one of the earlier quotes: “From ignorance of the truth about man’s real nature and faculties and their action and condition after bodily death, a number of evils flow.”

The truth about the human being’s real nature and faculties and the truth about what actually happens after death and between lifetimes…these are some of the main things that Theosophy claims to teach, clarify, and explain. Whether it does so satisfactorily is for each person to decide for themselves…after having made sure they have studied and understood the entirety of the teachings on these subjects.

Those who would like to do so are invited to read articles on this site such as Death and The Afterlife, A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, What happens to people who commit Suicide?, and When We Die. A more extensive exploration can be made through such books as “The Ocean of Theosophy” by William Q. Judge and “The Key to Theosophy” by H. P. Blavatsky. All the books quoted from and referred to in this article are published by Theosophy Company for the United Lodge of Theosophists. Please see our Books on Theosophy page for more details.

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