THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 4, February, 1933
(Pages 168-172; Size: 15K)
(Number 14 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE SECRET HALL OF IMAGESThe whole secret of Life is in the unbroken series of its manifestations. --Secret Doctrine, I, 238.IT IS probable that of all the millions of Occidentals who are coming to accept Karmic law as an explanation of life, most believe it as an article of reasoned faith. They accept, not so much from positive conviction, as from the breakdown and hollowness of rival faiths. Certainly when a man has seen through the utter emptiness, the downright immorality of the respectable religions, the unshakable logic of reincarnation plus Karma leaves him no good reason for not accepting it, albeit rather coldly and passively, as the most probable answer. What, one may wonder, makes the vital difference between the man who "accepts," and he who discovers? The difference between the great masses of believers, and the very few who embrace the quest with vital energy, and so ultimately come to know? Perhaps the present exposition may throw some light on the matter.
The race mind is deeply imbued with the idea that the realm of the metaphysical -- the realm of reality, since it gives original birth to all we know as physical -- must forever remain terra incognita. Those who "accept" Karma on general principles, studying not at all, interested in no painfully acquired self-knowledge, have but exchanged one religion for another; a little more meritorious religion, perhaps, but!
Lack of knowledge of the rationale of Karmic action, leaving necessarily a great hiatus between the deed which seemingly dies traceless in the past, and the retribution which seemingly emerges causeless from the present, must necessarily serve to maintain a sense of unreality in the mind of the believer; this sense of unreality in turn paralyzes effort at understanding, and there are few to summon from within themselves energy for crossing the barrier.
Worse; the human mind, like the rest of nature, abhorring a vacuum, tends insidiously to fill in such a void with its own creations. And thus all too many "believers" in Karma fill in the gap of their perceptions with some kind of "Watcher on High," some "recording Angel," who "keeps books" in inaccessible realms and in due time pays the score by inscrutable means. It is superior to the Christian conception only in that it better fits the punishment to the crime, the reward to the deed, thus carrying a little more of conviction to the logical mind. But it is a dangerous and undesirable state of understanding; the shadowy, formless image of the "Judge on High" may at any time take on, under the influence of aroused affinities of the past, a maleficent life, and our mind be seized as arrantly by the obsession of a personal god in new guise, as is the religious mind held by the old. Thus in pseudo-theosophical literature do we have "Lords of Karma"; "the Logos," "the Manu," and other divine dispensers. The only potent cleanser of the mind is an unremitting and progressively successful effort to perceive and understand the actual impersonal, unerring machinery of Karmic action; machinery living, conscious, vital; mental, moral and spiritual; but machinery nevertheless, in that it operates of necessity, by the inherent forces in all life; needs no monitors, no guides, leaders, directors. Least of all can it be accused of having any conscious purpose whatsoever, though it may be used for many purposes by those who understand it. It is not in the power of any man, god, or demon, to avert the effect of a cause; it is in the power of anything self-conscious -- therefore able to distinguish itself objectively from all mechanisms -- to modify and direct the modes of action of Karmic forces; to see that the inevitably expended consequences take channels more fruitful than blind law would have achieved by itself. Above all, because self-consciousness arises from the source-principle of things, self-conscious beings alone have power to set the machinery in motion, to originate causes. All other classes of beings are cogs whose rotations, left to themselves, are endlessly repetitive.
Of what unseen metals is this machinery builded? In what viewless workshops of Space is it housed? Each man's own hands, even ever so ignorantly, grip the levers of his fate day and night; the Karmic machinery is the very flow of forces within, which he sets in motion or suppresses momently by act of will. That man can place the balance of Karmic action in some far space, when his very mind and body form the pans and beam of the scale, is due to an amazing negative self-hypnosis.
The movement of a step can be extended into the journey of a thousand miles; a pain in the heart can be made to yield understanding of all humanity's woes. One clear-cut understanding of given chain of personal cause and effect will supply the key to all Karma, cosmic in its scope. Patent is it that all men rush upon their own fates, undesired as those fates may be. No matter what the circumstance, however seemingly external or impersonal the force that acts, the man has placed himself within its sphere by his own powers. A life upon retrospect may seem to have been ruled by a chain of circumstance conducting it inexorably to a preordained end; circumstances internal and external. It is only a fool who will claim that a man can never find himself in the grip of passions and desires that he cannot control; verily the puny will of an incarnation is a feeble thing against forces come to a head after a million years! Yet close study of such a life shows that at some point -- if even only at one point -- the man himself, by some conscious moral choice, for good or for evil, forged the one link without which the whole chain would have fallen slack upon the ground. Every circumstance under which any man finds himself is a link in an endless chain. If we would know Karma, look for the links of choice! "Karma" is but a succession of links from the past, which our present motive, thought and deed reforge into the chain of destiny.
Karma, runs the aphorism, is carried from incarnation to incarnation as mental deposits. A mental deposit is a memory; a memory is an image. What is an image? An image is a structure of substance; obviously substance exists in metaphysical forms, since the mind is full of images not built of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen. These images arise -- most often without our conscious volition. They depart. Do they cease to exist? On the contrary. Well do we know that, through long years lost, these images may be recalled as fresh and vigorous as ever. Self-study will reveal that the vitality of an image, its permanence in our consciousness, depends upon the degree with which it is ensouled by one or other of the two great spiritual emotions -- love and hate, with all their offspring. Our minds from birth to death build up an endless unseen forgotten gallery of pictures within. Nothing is lost.
A whole world of thought runs parallel to our daily consciousness, hourly affecting the quality of the latter; sometimes the central consciousness stands for a moment astride the two worlds, and views with amazement its own double life. Do we not see that, going to bed upon a book which has greatly moved us, the characters therein take up a life of their own, continue their story in ways beyond our waking imagination? Do we not see the experience of the waking day reincarnate in our dreams, clothed in strange exotic symbolism?
How often are we clear as to the motives of any act? How often are even important decisions made with the greater part of the area of our feelings concerned therewith, buried in haze? Do we know how far our decision is swayed by some long-forgotten memory-image, just beyond mental vision but influencing conscious choice by subtle emanation? Why is it that one man will fail to win our liking, whatsoever boons he confers; while another may presume upon us most arrantly and be looked upon with indulgence? We "dislike" the one and "like" the other; because of that like and dislike we forgive the one and distrust the other and seldom has real character anything to do with it; our friend may take the opposite view of these men and be as nearly right as we. How often do we probe these strange affinities? Were we to do so, we would find that the man whom we dislike merely carries a face fitting a buried image which has unpleasant associations; the other, the opposite. And we are tricked and betrayed, our judgment of men and things, thrown awry throughout life by the whisperings from the hidden gallery. Often our invisible monitor is a picture which we could exhume, if we would, from the past of this life; more often -- it is one of Pantanjali's "mental deposits," from a far-distant past.
Our gallery of images is not for our eye alone; almost he who runs may read, if he have eyes. The secret contents of our mind, conscious or unconscious, affect all whom we meet. On the outer and blinder plane, as instinctive like or dislike, trust or distrust. To the perceptive, every man carries his own moral odor to which we react almost automatically; the most direct possible line of cause and effect! On the inner planes, the astral self of our neighbor takes as much suggestion from our own pictures as from his own. To come into the neighborhood of another man is to receive subtle suggestions, to experience subtle alterations of our own mentality, morality, spirituality. If a man is murdered -- who knows what dark image of his own mind suggested the deed to a susceptible soul? If a man is killed in an accident, who knows what buried memories he carried that caused his hand to falter on the wheel? And these unseen messages, admonitions, often reach the definitely physical. Until recently the old doctrine of "ahimsa" or harmlessness -- the teaching that no animal will harm any man who is wholly devoid of hate and devoid of fear -- was held to be pure superstition. Science finds that it is true -- though how far true, it does not realize. And it is true physically for the reason that fear and hatred, or the desire to kill, cause the excretion of actual physical emanations which have their corresponding effect upon the animal. Beekeepers and animal-trainers have always known the practical fact, without understanding its rationale. But the law is true on all planes.
Many a man, having thieved all his life, and found fortune, has turned straight, encountered immediate misfortune, and cursed his God. But how could it be otherwise? His mind was for years filled with pictures of dishonesty. Having seen the light, those pictures were vitalized by repugnance. Being vitalized, they inspired others to ill deeds against him so soon as they came into his presence; caused him by subtle inner suggestion to enter situations of loss and distress, confused and confounded his every action; for they could only be slain by corresponding action in the opposite direction. Thus many a Theosophist, after a life or many lives enjoyed in the opposite direction, wonders why things are harder when he enters Theosophy. Those who win through and pay their scores know why the Karma of even "good" men of earth seems so bitter!
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:
Question: The Lipika are mentioned in the Secret Doctrine as recorders of Karma. It would seem as if they were outside beings.
Answer: No, the Lipika are not personal beings, although that idea has been given currency by many "theosophical" students who have entirely misapprehended the statements in the Secret Doctrine. That such beings practically "manipulate" Karma is foreign to the whole teaching. There are as component parts of every human being, principles, which are drawn from the seven great hierarchies of being. Action, whenever taken, is taken with, through, and felt by one or the other or all of these principles, and there is registration of the general and individual effect produced -- all that is good and all that is bad -- among those hierarchies to which the principles belong. The action finds its own place and focus of reaction. Each hierarchy has its own individuality as a mass; individuality is not characteristic of the units. Hence, the Lipika may be regarded as the recording points of the general and individual effects of Karma; though this statement requires as a mode of explanation, geometry, which is an expression in form of the reaction of all the forces in nature. --Robert Crosbie
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE PENALTIES OF POSSESSION
(Part 15 of a 57-part series)
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