THEOSOPHY, Vol. 25, No. 12, October, 1937
(Pages 540-545; Size: 17K)
(Number 32 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
"COINCIDENCE" is recognized by Science to a limited and cautious degree. While not generally known to the layman, it is a fact that the paradoxically named "laws of chance" circumscribe the scientific application of "coincidence." One "coincidence" beyond the mathematical boundaries set by these "laws" should start the scientist looking for the order underlying the given coincidences. That the universality of Law, or Karma, has not been discovered through this rule of procedure is because science has never suspected the existence of laws governing human affairs other than the effects of heredity and environment, and therefore has never tabulated the affairs of mankind with such an end in view. Yet only a little serious study and statistical observation show that an attempt to class certain concatenations of events under "coincidence" is ridiculous. The stream of evidence is endless.
Several classifications may be made:
1. The cyclic recurrence of disasters of a given type.
2. Repeated happenings of a similar nature to a single individual.
3. Repeated happenings of a similar nature in a single family.
4. Convergent Karma, or a similar trend of life affecting different persons. (Frequently overlapping No. 3.)
5. Happenings of a certain sort centering upon a material object or place.
6. Direct sequence between misdeeds and Karmic retribution.
CLASS 1. Instances of this type can be gathered over the course of any year by statistical tabulation. For example, a series of fires reported by the press in February, 1936, brought death to seventy-one persons in all. On June 4, 1932, four persons committed suicide in the city of Los Angeles. This latter is a form of collective Karma not nearly as mysterious as most of the others.
One of the strangest of all cases of simultaneous disaster happened on November 5, 1934. Mrs. Martha Coons, of Richmond, California, greeted her husband at the door of their home, informing him that she had shot herself. At the same hour Daniel Della Santa was driving through San Jose with a bullet in his brain. Neither was expected to recover. Here the "coincidence" involved two persons, both fatally or near-fatally injured at the same hour in the same manner, and both of whom remained conscious and able to move about for a time.
CLASS 2. James Walker was thrown from a truck on the Redwood Highway in California. A few days later he was thrown from another machine and this time went to the hospital.
The Literary Digest (September 23, 1933) recounts the case of H. F. Bulger, of Redondo Beach, California, who narrowly escaped death nineteen times in his life; also a case described by Capt. John Jacobson, a contractor of Galveston, Texas, which consisted of seventeen such escapes. The Digest comments that there are many such instances. According to the same publication (August 15, 1933), Hank Shafer, of Eldorado, Iowa, survived sixteen such escapes during his eighty-two years of life.
A most amazing example of such a sequence is that of Edward M. Kirk, of Charleston, West Virginia. In November, 1931, he was struck by a train and lost a leg. One year later he was struck by an automobile and lost his left eye. On May 9, 1933, lying in bed, he reached for his artificial leg beside the bed. His artificial eye failing to register a gun on the dresser, he knocked it off. Discharging, the gun cost him his right arm. Here we have two former "accidents" combining as the proximate cause of the third. This case appears to overlap into Class 6. More of the story would be unraveled if we could learn the genesis of the idea of having a gun on the table.
CLASS 3. At least one scientific survey, though of limited scope, has been made in the matter of family Karma. (Science News Letter, July 13, 1935.) An inspection of California marriages by Drs. Terman and Buttenweiser indicates that marital happiness runs in families. It is suggested that "these groups inherit or acquire dispositions a little more amiable and affectionate than those whose marriages go on the rocks." To this we would add that variation of "inherited" dispositions is as great in a family group as it is among strangers; and that any "acquisition" of a disposition in the sense meant is necessarily from and within the group. The fact is that such families are the incipient foundation of a true family life and a newer and better social order. They are composed of egos having a common heritage of grihastha wisdom brought from their own former lives.
Robert Ripley (Los Angeles Examiner, November 29, 1931) gives the case of a gun which accidentally exterminated a whole family in Westport, Tennessee -- Mrs. Huban Hicks in 1928, her son in 1929, and her husband in 1930. Here, again, is an overlap into Class 6. What kind of indifference and dullness, both moral and material, led husband and son to keep in use a weapon having such awful memories attached to it? Or, with such examples before them, how could they be capable of using it so carelessly?
The same newspaper (January 17, 1932) reports the astonishing case of the Noyes family, of Endicott, New York. Fred Noyes was killed by the fall of a tree he was cutting down. It develops that both his father and his grandfather were killed in the same manner.
Five members of the C. A. Brown family, of Altadena, California, met violent deaths in four separate accidents in recent years.
John Trigg, of Marshall, Missouri, died unexpectedly of blood poisoning on a Thursday. Steven Trigg attended the funeral on Saturday, had an attack of indigestion the same day and died before a doctor could reach him. George Trigg, the third brother, attended Steven's funeral Sunday, became ill and died Monday. (Associated Press despatch, February 5, 1936.)
According to the San Francisco Examiner (September 16, 1934), seven male members of a family of Belmont, Ohio, have died of a mysterious form of paralysis. The victims were scattered through three generations, the first death occurring just after the Civil War. The disease first shows itself when the victim is at about the age of five, death coming at eighteen. The females are immune. At present two more members of the family are stricken. The case presents a strange parallel with hemophilia, from which the Czarevitch suffered. This disease gets into the family heredity by some inexplicable "mutation" and seems never to leave it.
An incident pointing to the reality of the mysterious and sometimes malignant influence of names and sounds is given in the Oakland, California, Tribune. (October 14, 1934.) On February 13, 1846, Jean Marie Dunbarry was executed in France for the murder of his father. Precisely 100 years before, on February 13, 1746, his great grandfather, Jean Marie Dunbarry, was executed for the murder of his father.
As would be expected, the family Karma of twins is often most striking. Mrs. Mary Margaret White, of Springfield, Missouri, and Mrs. Letha Jan Etter, of Nocona, Texas, are nonagenarian twins. (Oakland Tribune, 1933.) Both took the same courses at school and both made the same grades. Both married at about the same time, and each had ten children. Both lost their husbands at about the same time. Both fractured their left hips at about the same time. Both, in 1933, were nearly blind from old age, and both -- very logically -- expected to die at the same time.
Erwin Iske and Fred Nester are the same age, have the same height and weight, both have brown eyes, both married wives from the same state who look alike, both are electrical engineers, both have sons the same age, and both have dogs named "Trixie" -- who also look alike. (Oakland Tribune, September 24, 1934.) It happens that the men are twins; but "environmental influence" is excluded by the fact that they were adopted by different families as babies and did not know they were twins until the age of 26.
Science recognizes nothing except material heredity and environment to explain the similar characteristics of twins. Are we to suppose that either of these factors, or both combined, can cause two nonagenarian ladies long living in separate States to break their left hips at about the same time? Or to bring about the deaths of their husbands at about the same time? In the case of Iske and Nester, with whom "environment" is eliminated altogether, shall we, by ascribing quasi-miraculous powers to the mysterious "genes," imagine these brothers marrying girls who look alike and acquiring dogs who look alike because of "heredity"? Are we to assume that the omnipotent gene is able to direct that the two dogs be named "Trixie"? Can physical heredity, developed during centuries and perhaps for hundreds of thousands of years, cause two men to become electrical engineers? To explain these things in such a manner is to eliminate a puzzle by substituting a miracle.
CLASS 4. We have at hand but one striking incident in this class, the case of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Presidents of the Union and of the Confederate States respectively during the Civil War. They were born in Kentucky eight months apart. Their fathers settled in Kentucky in 1782. Both had fourteen letters in their names. Their genial and studious temperaments were similar. They left Kentucky while young, both becoming lumbermen. They were officers in the Black Hawk War and later went into politics and oratory. They were Presidential electors in 1844. They went to Congress, and spoke there on the Mexican War. They were elected presidents in 1861, succeeded themselves in office, held alike that Congress had not the power to abolish slavery. Both dealt with hostile congresses, both ceased to be President in April of the same year -- one by assassination, the other by deposition. And both looked alike. (This is obscured in history for the obvious reason that the partisans of neither would boast of the resemblance.) What amazing Karma is this -- two good, loyal and devoted men, both serving the same people according to their lights, making war upon one another, not of their own fault or desire, but because of the "sins of the people." The living parallel of these men who were, in a sense, "Karmic twins," is indeed something to be pondered.
CLASS 5. There are many traditions concerning "hoodoo ships" and "hoodoo mines," "haunted houses," and the like, which have never been seriously investigated save for futile attempts of psychic research bodies in the direction of haunted houses. Such tales are taboo in science because dogmatically classed as "superstition." But the reality behind traditions of this kind cannot be ignored by one who takes the whole of experience for his field of study. There is the case of the Peralta, a San Francisco ferryboat. In 1927, a year after being built, she smashed into the Oakland Pier, causing considerable damage. Later she dipped her nose into a large wave which drowned several persons. In 1933 the pier burned and the Peralta was gutted. The boat was sold for operation in Puget Sound. There are rumors that all concerned hoped that the change would break the "hoodoo," which seems to have been the case. She was rebuilt as an ultra-modern streamlined ferry, her name changed, and according to available information has been operated without trouble for several years.
A certain boat, the name of which is unknown (probably because the San Francisco papers are loath to expose it), has made a similar record along the coast just north of that city. She has been ashore near Point Arena, sunk at Fort Bragg, and twice afire in San Francisco Harbor.
The actuality of such "hoodoos" will probably be one of the last phases of Karma to be investigated and accepted by science. This, in science's eyes, would be to invite witchcraft back again and to open the door to exorcisms and superstition of all kinds. But in plain fact, given that all things are derived from a living principle, are alive and potentially intelligent and therefore capable of receiving and emitting impressions, however unconsciously, what is strange about moral and mental contagions attaching themselves to certain places and objects? It is borne out by history that some jewels, some ships, some houses and other objects, have an "aura" of evil! Is it not as wise to avoid such influences as it is to keep out of a cholera house, regardless of whether the mechanism of the "curse" has yet been blueprinted?
CLASS 6. Patrolman George Shinault, who killed a rioter during the expulsion of the "Bonus Expeditionary Force" from Washington, July 28, 1932, was himself mysteriously shot and killed on August 14. The policeman had brooded constantly over the incident. Theosophists, who understand that "all Karma is carried forward in the form of mental deposits," will have no difficulty in relating the fact that he "unconsciously" got in the way of a bullet to his own "sense of guilt." That "sense of guilt," often quite unknown to the "normal" or surface mind, is at the root of all our catastrophes.
Harry Carr, writing for the Los Angeles Times during 1932, tells of a movie director who ordered workmen to kill a dog which had been straying about the set. He never again made a successful picture and speedily went "down and out." Another "gentleman' owned a bulldog which he forced to fight for gamblers after one of its forelegs had been chewed off. This man lost one of his own legs and at last found himself in prison. In these cases it seems that the consequence was not so much that of the action in question as of a general trend of character signified by the overt deed. Often some minor misdeed opens a chink in the armor of presently favorable Karma, admitting the consequences of lifetimes of evil.
It is interesting to speculate on how the "mental deposits" of association may become conveyors of Karma. In the case of the Hicks family, who knows how the memory of past disasters may have worked with a deadly fascination upon those who handled the gun? Or in the case of a Noyes, cutting a tree with the memory of what tree-cutting meant to the Noyes'? What deadly paralysis of effort such an image may have brought at the moment when life hung upon speed and decision!
The mental image within the mind tells but half the story; there has also to be the reaction from nature at large -- the juxtaposition of circumstances under which the inner image can precipitate the external result. This all necessarily rests upon a great unified harmony; a central reaction of equilibrium, a knot into which all lines ultimately run. This vast system of intelligent justice, or just intelligence, is not a conscious mind as understood by man, least of all any anthropomorphic, judging "god," but an ultimate Unity in which all things forever tend to come to a balance, through pain and pleasure, salvation and destruction -- through all of these combined.
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE CIRCLING TIDES OF TIME
(Part 33 of a 57-part series)
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