ROBERT CROSBIE ON THE LAW OF KARMA
In the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Movement, we find KARMA described as the very cornerstone of the Esoteric philosophy, the ultimate Law of the Universe, and even as the Power which controls the Universe.
Of all the many different spiritual topics and subjects that are included within the teachings of Theosophy, those of Karma and Reincarnation are the most important and it is the role and duty of all Theosophists to endeavour to do what they can to help put a clear and accurate understanding of these principles into the public consciousness. A surprisingly high proportion of people nowadays readily admit that they believe in Karma and also in Reincarnation but the vast majority of them seem to have a rather hazy and unclear view of it and do not possess the necessary knowledge or understanding that would enable them to share and talk about these things freely and confidently with others.
If Karma is truly “the ultimate Law of the Universe,” then it’s certainly something worth knowing about and understanding!
There are only three possible explanations available to us as to why things are the way they are and why things happen the way they do. Either everything is down to sheer chaotic chance and accident and has no actual reason, purpose, or cause behind it whatsoever…or everything is due to the will and whim of some “Big Man” up in the sky; some type of personal anthropomorphic God…or the universe and everything in it is governed by immutable Law; unfailing, unerring, impartial, impersonal, and ever just. This would be, as Madame Blavatsky put it, “the Great Adjuster,” ever adjusting cause to effect, in order to maintain the perfect harmony, balance, and equilibrium of all things including the universe itself.
None of these three theories are mutually compatible. If we stop and think about it we will readily see that it is impossible to hold to more than one of them. If we accept the Law of Karma then we cannot at the same time believe in a God who makes things happen and stops things from happening. For Theosophists, “Deity is Law and Law is Deity.”
The Master K.H., one of the Eastern Adepts behind the Theosophical Movement, spoke of the One Life, the One Law, the One Element. These are absolutely inseparable from one another. In their inseparable and eternal union, they are “The ONLY One,” other than which there nothing ever has been (to paraphrase from the Rig Veda). The One Life being Pure Eternal Spirit and the One Element being Pure Eternal Matter (primordial root-matter or Mulaprakriti in Sanskrit), the One Law which is vitally and eternally interconnected with the “Two-in-One” is the immutable Law of Karma.
Madame Blavatsky has said in “The Secret Doctrine” that it is only this teaching of the Law of Karma that will ever satisfy the mind and heart of the intelligent and thinking person who seeks answers to such pertinent questions as “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Why do disasters happen?” and “Why do some people suffer?” and so forth.
That “good person” will not always have been a good person, since none of us are perfect. At some point, either earlier in the present lifetime or in a preceding lifetime, the person must have behaved in an unpleasant, harmful, negative, or inappropriate way, and committed what Buddhist teachings call “non-virtuous actions.” For every action, there must be and always will be a corresponding reaction at some future point. What we sow is what we will reap. What we reap is what we have sown. Thus – in the words of HPB’s “The Voice of the Silence” – “rigid justice rules the world.”
There is no Divine Being behind this Law of Universal Balance, Harmony, and Equilibrium. It is simply LAW, uncreated, eternal, and immutable, the Law inherent in the Universe. It just simply is…and the sooner we learn it and accept it (since we can hardly deny it) the better for all of us.
The remainder of this article is a compilation of insightful, inspiring, and sometimes challenging quotations on Karmic Law from Robert Crosbie, founder of the United Lodge of Theosophists.
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“There is but one law for all beings; it has been called the Law of Laws, and is known under the name of Karma. This word means “action,” without which there is no re-action; it is also known as “Cause and Effect” or “Sowing and Reaping.” It is taught that there is no action unless there is a being to act or feel its effects, and as any action affects other beings, these must obtain their adjustment at the point of original action. Thus Justice and Mercy are provided for in the inherent nature of all beings, for both in their last analysis are one and the same.”
“You have asked me for comment on the questions sent in by our English brother; particularly, as to “Karma being as merciless as the Bible-God.” But does he consider that Mercy is not opposed to Justice, and that the fullest justice is the same as the fullest mercy? Some take the meaning of Mercy to be a permitted escape from the results of wrong-doing; but this would not be Justice, nor would it be merciful to those injured by the wrong-doing. …remember the definition of Karma: an undeviating and unerring tendency in the Universe to restore equilibrium, which operates incessantly. Karma is inherent law and its operation must therefore be impersonal. Some might take this to be “merciless,” but that would only be because they desire escape from consequences that are unpleasant.
“There are just two ways of looking at the question: either the Universe is governed by Law and under Law, or all is Chaos. Our experience in every department of Nature points to the fact that Law reigns everywhere; nothing is done of any kind or anywhere, except under Law. …
“Now as Law reigns in the material world, it can be seen to rule in the mental and moral world as well. Karma simply means “action” and its consequent “re-action.” There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects; unpleasant effects predicate causes that send forth unpleasantness in the world, affecting others, and finding the restoration of equilibrium at the point of disturbance. There can be, then, but one consideration, and that is, Justice. Why should we desire anything but Justice to be done?”
“The fact that Law rules in everything and every circumstance (Karma) is evidence that exact justice is the rule of life. As soon as one sees that there is no “God” to condemn or punish him and that he can only get that which belongs to him, and will surely get everything that does belong to him in a Universe of Law, then he has no reason for being “cheerless,” but feels satisfied, responsible, and confident. And no matter how much we may have transgressed or how little we may have known in the past, as soon as we sense the truth of Reincarnation – the process by which Law rules – we realize that we can set up better causes and make the future what we wish.”
“We must get the fact clearly in mind that Karma is Action with its consequent re-action; that the re-action is not something different or separate from the action, but a continuation of it. Karma therefore includes all action, good or bad, remedial or otherwise. … Karma is the Law of “sowing and reaping,” getting the exact results of our thoughts, words and deeds. We never lose the power to act, so how could we lose our Karma? We are Karma.”
“In considering any question of experience we have first of all to take into account the Law of Karma – action and re-action, or sowing and reaping; this on the face of it cannot be anything else but exact justice. Reincarnation is the result of karmic action, and also offers the opportunity to set better causes in motion. If selfishness rules in any one life, evil causes are set in motion the results of which must be adjusted either in that life or a following one. …if we find any people particularly marked out for persecution, we may be sure that as egos in other times they had been the offenders and are reaping what they sowed.”
“There is no injustice. What we see as apparent injustice seems so because we do not see the causes which have produced the present ill effects. If we have no knowledge of our own real nature and the Law of Karma that is inherent in it, then the feeling can only be that we have received injustice, and we harbor hatred and resentments. What prevents our understanding these things is mainly that we do not know what we are here for. We look at things from a one-life basis, and finding ourselves in this life we imagine it as something we had nothing to do with. Seeing others, according to our view, more fortunate than ourselves, we want to know why, and no answer being possible on the basis we have assumed, we assume that we are receiving injustice. If Karma is the doctrine of responsibility, Reincarnation is the doctrine of hope. The two go together. The reason we are on earth, according to the Occult teaching: we are not here because of our virtues; we are here because of our defects. The “personality” is really the working off of defects. If we do not learn what the object of life is, and don’t do the work, then we are only creating more defects to adjust, and more trouble for ourselves.”
Q. What, then, prevents men from understanding right and wrong, and this justice we call Karma?
A. “They take the position of irresponsibility, by resentment at supposed injustice; they expect to reap where they did not sow; they are looking for something for themselves. So they are ready to listen to any or all of the various panaceas offered, and go after whatever promises something for nothing. They do not look within; they are not humble; they do not ask what is the purpose of the Inner Man; how is it they are as they are, and not in some other place under other conditions.”
Q. Do you feel that the understanding of these ideas of Karma and Reincarnation alone can save the nation from internal troubles?
A. “It is the only way out. Until men understand that they are here not for once, that whatever they receive they have merited, we shall have just as much and worse trouble than that we have already had, for the longer it goes on the more intense will be the reactions. But, perhaps men will listen to these obvious self-evident truths only when there has been such an absolute subversion and destruction that they have to stop and think. How the Masters would if They could, save humanity! They have done all they can. The Message is here, and it is our only hope. … So if there are those who have eyes to see, who have ears to hear and who can understand, let them work in season and out of season to put these ideas before their fellow-men, that the ideas may spread and make others think.”
“Karma is the key-note to all conditions, for it governs the smallest atom as well as the highest spiritual being; it governs men, animals, worlds, and periods of evolution, in their individual actions and in their collective interactions. In its broadest sense, Karma is action; every effect flows from some action, from some cause precedent, and the reaction is but the continuance of that action. Karma is the basis of evolution; the ocean of life separating into its constituent drops, after pralaya, is action, in continuance of past actions which entered into that assimilative period, and go forth from it as a cause. Karma is the means by which evolution proceeds.”
“We are Karma; we represent Karma; as we think, we are the creators of Karma. There is no Karma unless there is a being to make it or feel its effects, and as each being in its degree has the power to act, to perceive and receive the effects of action, it must be realized that Karma is not a law imposed on man by gods, devils, men or beings of any kind, but is inherent in all beings; hence, it is the law of absolute justice, and each man is responsible for his own external affairs, conditions and circumstances, for his character, qualities and tendencies, for his mental, moral, psychic and spiritual nature, upon every plane of consciousness. He is likewise responsible for the effects of his thought and action on his fellow-men, and on the kingdoms below man; he cannot save himself at the expense of any other being, nor can he have true happiness so long as any of his fellow-men suffer.”
“The laws and principles of existence – the true rationale of life – are presented by Theosophy; hence, each man’s contact with it is alike an opportunity and a responsibility, to which he has been brought under Karma. He can make the most of it, or he may neglect it so as to fail to obtain or extend benefit. His refusal to take advantage of it now will make him less determined in some other life to carry out the purpose of his nature, which is defeated presently if he neglects, under any circumstances or pressure, that which he sees to be leading him in the right direction. But always there are those who will test Theosophy out in their own lives, and learn what it is, and will carry on the work to the last end. They in their good time must come to be the leaders and pioneers of humanity, which must learn, even though the learning takes centuries of suffering. If the light of pure Theosophy is kept burning clear, it will be the saving light of the whole world. That must be. But the question is, who will be the light-bearers?”
* The above quotations are from the books The Friendly Philosopher and Answers to Questions on The Ocean of Theosophy by Robert Crosbie, published by Theosophy Company.
For further explanation of these topics, you are welcome to read the articles A Right Understanding of Karma, A Right Understanding of Reincarnation, Questions about Karma, Prayer, Karma, and Compassion and Aphorisms on Karma. For information regarding the ULT (United Lodge of Theosophists) founded by Mr Crosbie and its numerous spiritual centres and study groups around the world, please see Theosophy Around the World, The Man Who Rescued Theosophy, On Anonymity and Impersonality, and The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement.