THEOSOPHY, Vol. 35, No. 7, May, 1947
(Pages 301-306; Size: 19K)
(Number 43 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE KARMA OF CALUMNYOver the gateway of Century I of our era, the ominous words "the KARMA OF ISRAEL," fatally glowed. Over the portals of our own, the future seer may discern other words, that will point to the Karma for cunningly made-up HISTORY, for events purposely perverted, and for great characters slandered by posterity, mangled out of recognition,... (The Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, xli.)IN the long struggle of Man against his own salvation, the Spirit has but one weapon -- Truth. The animal in man has a thousand, adapted in turn to the varying modes of the times. In one, it is the horror of excommunication and the fear of hell; in another, the sword; or the rack or faggot. Our age is ill-adapted to the use of fire and sword against philosophy; ridicule, slander, calumny, the keener horrors of moral persecution, are better fitted.
Theosophists have more cause than most men to study this weaponry. The issue is supreme; never in any age has so much depended on so few. It is not easily that materialistic vested interests, whose very existence depends upon the retardation of the true course of evolution, will surrender Man to the Light of his own spirit. Many times in the past have we seen the recrudescent struggle on the plane of glaring slander and fabricated scandal. The enemy cannot attack the philosophy of Theosophy as such, since to do so would be to describe it and thus to propagate it. But to single out striking personalities, ascribing to them lurid sins, or common vices brought to depths all too easily understood by the mind of the age: this is easy. No effort is required to understand that. The strategy is obvious; and it is excellent, if, for instance, a reactionary religious organization wishes to render less effective the influence of Theosophical ideas.
Clearly, few men can read hundreds of pages of calumny against H. P. Blavatsky, and at the same time study her works with philosophic calm; yet the study of those works is the only final authority that a man may find as to the truth of her life. The object of calumny would appear to be to prevent investigation of Theosophy; or, failing in this, to see that the victim approaches Theosophy with an incurable prejudice implanted in his mind. The test of Theosophy is not in the character of H.P.B.: the test of her character is in Theosophy. But no pre-poisoned mind can easily understand the latter. What kind of woman wrote the works of H.P.B.? How can a man understand that if he cannot understand the works?
Yet Theosophy today suffers less from such obviously motivated attacks than from irresponsible sensation- and gossip-seeking. By this peculiar means, old vilifications, once planned as strategy, can be made much more creditable by the apparent disinterestedness of the tabloid-tending story-teller. That vicious tales are eagerly sought by publishers and public but signifies the gradually extending base upon which the "karma of calumny" will, in return cycle, render all truths obscure.
What is the karma of calumny? That is a mighty question. Not the karma, personally considered, of Theosophists; unless by feebleness of their own knowledge their roots are loose in the truth and their limbs weak to quiver in such foul winds; or unless they have, despite the warnings not to look for results, pinned their hopes on the saving of this generation of man -- a saving which we have long been warned is of doubtful accomplishment. It is the karma of the race. Men cannot fall victims to self-exposing calumnies if their minds are clean, and eager only for truth. Rather, their very sense of justice, if active at all, is but aroused to seek for the full tale of the other side. In no case can harm through calumny come to any man who has not already so harmed himself.
But indeed it is an evil age when calumny can be written, published, and read at all as "literature," except in stern skepticism and comparison. The evil sweeps far and lies deep. The Secret Doctrine statement on the karma of perverting "history" is a grim indication that the gigantic ill of these times -- even the possible on-sweeping doom of the whole "cultural" complex -- is rooted in lie and libel. The popular lust for derogation is of a kind with the sadism that so eagerly devours the daily tale of accident and murder, and gloats upon the battered ruin of the prize-fighter's face.
Both lies and libels are expressed fears -- the first, fear of abstract truth; the second, fear (issuing in dislike and resentment) of another's moral superiority, that is, of truth embodied in human character. The karma of fear, in this case, takes the form of a preference for distortion. One who distorts truth in his own mind is corrupting himself, not truth: it is only a question of time before he creates an inner demon that rejoices at every opportunity to promote damage to another's physical person (sadism); or to destroy, in some measure, his psychic adjustment with society (slander).
Distortion of truth in individual relationships is the root from which grows the familiar forest of expedient political policy -- the lies of state. This renders more comprehensible the sequence of events depending upon Bismarck's falsification of the Ems telegram, which led to the war of 1870, which led to the war of 1914, which led to the war of 1939, which may lead ... where? It was not altogether that single deed: the whole story is one of a widening, growing stream of falsehood converging from the dark canyons of nationalism.
But let us first -- with some little aid from modern psychiatry -- explore the smaller crevices of our own souls, and test the fluids rising from their depths; for do not these flow into and compose the greater torrent of the race mind?
Calumny will be seen to exist in several degrees of guilt, like the physical slaying of which it is the moral counterpart. Let us understand this, lest, in our turn, we calumniate the calumniator. Least culpable is the "pathological liar" to whom truth and the random fancies of his own mind are truly indistinguishable -- the condition of the imaginative child who has never grown up. Such persons all unwittingly become at times lusty slanderers, but their "defect of nature" corresponds to the insanity which rescues the murdered from the gallows. They are irresponsible, because unconscious, mediums: the astral light, ever pressing upon their susceptible minds, causes images of sin and crime to rise effortlessly in colorful presentations. Receptive also in the extreme, these vivid imaginations set off in hue and cry after every suggestion, elaborating ad infinitum and often with the greatest verisimilitude.
Have we ever listened in a lawyer's office to highly detailed, earnestly presented particulars, alleged to be eyewitnessed, of infamies charged against some unhappy defendant; deeds which could not possibly have occurred under the circumstances? Did we notice that the "witness" believed all of it; and believing it, would have been a most convincing witness to an uninformed jury, if his true nature had not been quickly recognized by the lawyer for the defendant.
The pathological liar is one kind of "psychic"; exemplar of the karma of a false "yoga" that has in some previous life destroyed the power of delineation between planes of perception, between images of reality, and self-imaginings. The ultimate responsibility of the soul of such a one is deep, and terrible; of the present personality, little or none. The trail of the pathological liar, once the traits of the type are known, is clearly discernible throughout the history of the Theosophical Movement; all the way from fervent belief in imaginary visits of "Masters" and romantic past incarnations, to the vilest of slanders. And in that wide field of credulous hearers and irresponsible gossips, no cautious judges or experienced lawyers stand on guard to protect the innocent victim!
Next in ascent of guilt, come -- ourselves. Ourselves, the purveyor of the casual quip, the "wise crack," of petty gossip; we, the sewing circle assassin; the bridge table terrorist.
The sources of the satisfactions arising from malicious gossip are being well enough established by modern psychiatry; they were well known to theosophists long before, even though in one school the responsible force is called the "kama" and in the other the "id." The random calumniator can be absolved from the karma of the more magnificent forms of character slaughter in that he has no real animus against his victims; one will do as well as another to satisfy his hunger for self-esteem. The "inferiority complex" must relieve itself by achievement -- achievement in nihilism in the case of a Hitler -- or by pulling down the rest of the world to the same inferior level.
Next in line of ascending guilt we may logically place the fanatic -- religious or otherwise -- to whom the cause of the enemy is the cause of the Devil; an adversary against whom only hell-fire may prevail, any means of victory being thus justified. Nothing is too brutal to be believed and said against a religious opponent -- as theosophists well know; nor does the situation differ in politics, albeit the slings and arrows of the lie are there directed as a rule against hides well-armored with old scar tissue.
The cause of Theosophy -- or say rather the cause of those who might have benefitted by it but were turned away -- has suffered most from the righteous slanderer; in which history it stands side by side with many a great man of the past -- Paine, for instance.
Finally, a special place must be reserved for the slanderer for a profit; the professional writer who, rising from one butchered reputation, calmly casts about for another, plump for slaughter and weakly defended -- especially defenseless if the owner thereof is long dead.
H. P. Blavatsky herself said it long ago, with more dignity than we command, in casting her gauntlet to the cynical world and rendering thereto the salutation of her doomed repute:The mercenaries and parasites of the Press, who prostitute its more than royal power, and dishonor a noble profession, will find it easy to mock at things too wonderful for them to understand; for to them the price of a paragraph is more than the value of sincerity. From many will come honest criticism; from many -- cant. But we look to the future.Since her day, and following H.P.B.'s own injunction, much has been written in the attempt to unravel the tangled ways into which the bewildered will of man throws the simple but irresistible power of Karmic Law. A neglected phase -- for quantitative data are lacking -- is the mathematical relation between a little and ignoble motive and the gigantic misdeed that may be its cumulative result. That thousands standing at the impalpable apex of their final choice for good or evil, may be lured into the abyss by a clever collection of vulgar misrepresentations, assembled in order that a writer may replenish a purse; that a civilization hanging over the abyss may have its last life-line cut by facile scissors clipping scandal -- what words in reality could command a description of the future of such a one? He who has truly experienced in full the retributive weight by which the Law purges a deep sin, knows that the truth will be avenged -- but alas, knows also the ghastly emptiness of vengeance.
The contest now going on between the party of public conscience and the party of reaction, has already developed a healthier tone of thought. It will hardly fail to result ultimately in the overthrow of error and the triumph of Truth. We repeat again -- we are laboring for the brighter morrow.
And yet, when we consider the bitter opposition that we are called upon to face, who is better entitled than we upon entering the arena to write upon our shield the hail of the Roman gladiator to Cæsar: MORITURUS TE SALUTÂT! (New York, September, 1877. Isis Unveiled, I, viii.)
It can be shown that calumny can and does lead to every kind of individual human misery and disaster as it grows through the peoples and through the years; that it can destroy the repute of nations as of individuals, setting man against man unto the ultimate of mass murder; that it can smother and cloud all knowledge that may save, and in the end blast civilizations out of existence. And why not? For it is the direct expression, the active aspect of the Great Illusion -- the Maya of matter; its blinding obfuscations Mara's very veil. Involving every disaster, it must involve every penalty. As the great island is built by the multitudinous efforts of the coral insect, so the great disasters of religious and national ignorances and hatreds are builded by the indefatigable efforts of those of us who yield day by day to the petty temptation of the malicious thought, the slurring word.
This cheap chatter in which all indulge upon occasion, is most subtle in its erosion of character. The habit tends to grow; if allowed to mature, in time our friends sense that in us which is to be distrusted. The inner life of achievement and right intent can be replaced by degrees with mere derogation and contempt of others, as the fibre of the good wood is replaced unseen by the dry-rot fungus. In the course of time we may find ourselves among those who even find livelihood by skill in scandal, parasitic upon the spiritual life-blood of the race.
Falsity is a theft from truth. The man who lives by theft in time disbelieves all honesty; with loss of discrimination comes inability to tell friend from foe; hence with loss of discrimination, loss of all. So with the thief of truth: the shell built between himself and the Spirit -- which is embodied Truth of itself -- grows impenetrable. The seeds sown -- of bewilderment and darkness, sin and sorrow, of errancy and delayed evolution -- ripen and are reaped. In the end, the deserted self cries in anguish for aid, for light; and from all the Universe comes no pitying echo, nor any faintest gleam of dawn.
Upon that dread excursion from the path stray all our feet from time to time. When our Cause is wounded by the lying tongue, let us, then, look to ourselves....great characters [are] slandered by posterity, mangled out of recognition, between the two cars of Jagannatha -- Bigotry and Materialism; one accepting too much, the other denying all. Wise is he who holds to the golden mid-point, who believes in the eternal justice of things.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE SILENT HELPERS
There are very few persons in [India], who, being in search of the ancient Aryan Philosophy, have obtained control over the bodily passions which trouble ordinary men beyond measure. Fewer still who like one now living in India, whom I dare not mention, are known. Almost all who have thoroughly studied or are studying that ennobling philosophy, keep themselves out of the public view in compliance with wise and inexorable rules. It is not through selfishness, as too many imagine. Though unseen, they none the less are continually working for the good of humanity. In thousands of cases what they effect is ascribed to Providence. And whenever they find anyone who, like themselves, has an ambition above the mere pleasures of this world, and is in search of that Vidya which alone can make man wise in this as well as happy in the next, they stand ready by his side, take him up in their hands as soon as he shows his worthiness, and put in his way the opportunities to learn that philosophy, the study of which has made them masters of themselves, of nature's forces, and of this world.
The Theosophist, January, 1880
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE SOUL'S IMPASSE
(Part 44 of a 57-part series)
Back to the
"STUDIES IN KARMA"
series complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".