The second of the basic propositions listed in Chapter 5 (goto) deals with the fundamental law of periodicity as a universal law, and some examples were given to illustrate it. This law, however, applies to all the processes of nature, to everything in the universe. The universe itself obeys it. In addition to the universal alternation in all natural events, from the largest to the smallest, everything has a beginning, a period of existence in which to fulfil its function in the scheme of things, and then a decline into old age followed by death and dissolution, or a disappearance, from the world of manifest things. This process applies quite obviously to our bodies and (but much less obviously) to some elements of our souls as well, as will be explained later .
Another aspect of universal law is that of cause and effect, action and reaction. Not only are the things and creatures in nature the results of previous things having existed and previous events having occurred, but by this law of cause and effect the results of our actions are visited on us. individually and collectively, inescapably. This may not be immediately apparent nor acceptable, at least in all cases, but it is said that it is so, and this satisfies our sense of justice. The adjustment, the retribution or recompense, however, may come soon or after many days or, according to Occultism, even in a future life. For some, this idea of inevitable and inescapable consequences of action, good or bad, is abhorrent; it provokes fear in the breasts of most of us imperfect mortals, hence the widespread wish for forgiveness.
Perhaps the rationale of this aspect of the law should be further explained: It is postulated that life itself is indestructible and everlasting but that its vehicles of action and perception, e.g., our bodies, are not. Life, however, in certain respects is modified as a result of experience gained during its innumerable lives in the multitudes of forms and creatures, and even in the substances, in nature.
The experience so gained is stored in a universal and ever- lasting "memory" about which we say more later. It is the cumulative and progressive changes in this "memory", modifying the ensouling life principle, that call for, or result in, modifications of the living forms, in vast periods of time, to accommodate the changes in the inner life principles. This is the hidden aspect of the evolutionary process. Forms are continually being adapted, not only the better to cope with environment, for survival, but to give expression to unfolding faculty in the indwelling life.
The process of re-incarnation, as well as re-inherbation and re-inmetalization or re-insubstantiation (to coin a word) is a universal and perpetual one, according to cyclic law.
Man is special in this process; instead of the life-principle generally, with certain of its potentialities developed, ensouling whole classes of forms at corresponding stages of development, an individual life-entity, the Ego, puts a ray of itself down periodically into successive individual personalities, all, as it were, strung on the same Egoic thread. It is the "memory" elements of the Ego that are modified by this process, whereas in the other departments of nature, the other kingdoms, it is the life-principle generally, not individually, that is modified. Some streams of life-for instance, those running through particular varieties of plants or animals-may be regarded as having particularized themselves, but no creature below man in the evolutionary scale has an individual Ego, operating separately, at its own level of activity in the spiritual realms.
This does not mean that the psyche, the mortal soul of a man, or its equivalent in any other creature, persists as such for more than a comparatively short time after the disintegration of the physical vehicle. To answer a common question, animals do have "souls", even though rudimentary and undeveloped ones, consisting of their astral double and vitality as well as some elements of the fourth principle of emotion in our classification, together with some slight admixture of mind, viz., the lower aspects of the fifth principle in some of the higher animals.
The law is, then, that the processes of nature are cyclical, that forms come and go, that every action has its effect and these effects cumulatively modify both the informing life and the vehicles it uses. The law maintains balance in nature by sooner or later adjusting the reaction perfectly to the action.
It is this aspect of the law which preserves the equilibrium of the whole universe and ensures the interrelated cooperation of everything in it as a harmonious whole.
Reaction to any action is inevitable. We cannot always, or perhaps very seldom, tell what the reaction to any particular action will be. Usually far too many factors are involved for us to resolve them, even approximately.
This aspect of the law applies both at physical and non-physical levels. In other words the law has a moral aspect. In the literature, this law is referred to as Karma both in its Cosmic and personal senses. The word Karma, however, is often used to designate only the law's reaction to man's doings.
It is frequently said that a man is his Karma. He is the total effect of all his previous actions, objective and subjective. But the law is infinitely complex, and while it must be true that the present condition of every man, and mankind as a whole, must derive from antecedent happenings and his individual and collective reactions to them, he is only what he has made himself to be. This is especially so in those areas where he has been individually responsible for his action. On the big scale, however, no individual man did anything to determine his physiological anatomy. His form, with its two legs, two arms, four fingers and opposing thumbs, and so on, must be the result of natural evolution, and must itself, as we have seen, be a very long term product of Karma. It was not produced as an effect of anyone man's doings. Every man now, however, can only operate within the limitations which these characteristics impose. Within these limits each man is responsible for his own development. In the same way that no man has deter- mined his general physical anatomy, neither has he determined the kind or range of his feeling and thinking faculties. But each of us is responsible for the degree of development of these potentialities within ourselves. This is different, and so is the admixture of them, in the psychic nature of each of us. No two persons are exactly the same in this respect, any more than two faces, albeit they comprise similar features (two eyes, two ears, a mouth, etc.) are exactly the same. These differences, physical and psychic, are karmic, the result of what we have done, and they stamp us for what we are as persons.
Similarly, by and large, according to this aspect of the law, our individual circumstances in life are the effects of causes we have originated either in this life or in previous ones.
We have to leave a little room here for accidents and the actions of others which will affect us, deservedly or not.
The law, however, can be trusted implicitly to make suitable adjustment. It is very difficult to see (and sometimes we are unwilling to admit) that our misfortunes and sufferings, as well as our blessings and joys, are our own doing or the results of it. It seems beyond our understanding, for example, why some should be smitten with disease, sometimes chronic and crippling, while others suffer no serious illnesses during the whole of a long lifetime. Some die young; some die old. Misfortune dogs every step of some unfortunates, while others enjoy, seemingly for no apparent reason, all the favours that position and wealth can bestow. Some enjoy good luck; others have nothing but ill-luck. So it goes, and Karma is behind it all, inevitably and inexorably.
Just as it is possible to explain reasonably how, say, personal psychic characteristics are transmitted from one personality to the next on the Egoic thread, so it is possible to explain the mechanism of operation of karmic recompense, retribution or mere adjustment as happiness or suffering, gain or loss, overtaking us in our successive lives. This will be discussed later .
The law also underlies causation. In a sense it is both latent and active motion. In the first primary proposition an omnipresent, eternal, boundless and immutable Principle was postulated as the ever-existent causeless cause of all manifest existence.
This is the absolute state where no thing is; there is no motion as such and nothing to move. There is only the potentiality of everything. In this sense motion, as such, is latent, as is everything else. But the law never ceases. Its vast rhythm rouses the universe to another becoming as universal manifestation, and then motion becomes active again as a component of everything, as energy.
At the beginning of periods of universal manifestation there is the great awakening. Inherent duality gives rise to polarity, to the motion-space, spirit-matter, dichotomy which forms the base of all active existence, at any level of being, as we know it. This underlies the universal opposites of positive and negative, male and female, light and dark, black and white, day and night. In terms of dynamism, these reflect in the alternations of activity and rest or passivity and into the multitudinous cyclic motions, the countless pulses which further reflect into all nature's rhythms, for example, into the bodily functions of in-breathing and out-breathing in animals, and so on.
These vibratory rhythms, cycles of incalculable ages or infinitesimal fractions of a second in duration, not only manifest in living things but throughout the vast variety of processes in nature. We can see rhythm as rapid alternation, as vibration, for example, in physics, as in light, heat, sound, and so on. In chemistry , according to Occultism, it underlies the enormous variety of sympathetic or antipathetic action and reaction. We sense it in the inner realms of our awareness, in our internal processes, our feelings. We all know the wide range of these rhythms and our responses, harmonious or discordant, to people and places, to sights and sounds, etc., that affect us pleasantly or otherwise.
Now the Ancient Wisdom, or the Esoteric Science, or whatever we wish to call it, says that each of these (indeed all) modes of action is related to a particular kind and condition of substance, giving to each energetic cause a particular mode of action or operation. For example, electricity can manifest its presence in a very wide variety of ways according to the substances and apparatus it is caused to flow through. It can produce chemical changes, e.g., decompose water into its constituents of oxygen and hydrogen; it can produce light, heat, motive power and so on.
In a like manner, other natural or "life" energies operating in or through the innumerable kinds of substances, forms of flora and fauna, produce in nature the wide variety of life activity that we observe in things growing, moving, or in our seeing, hearing, and feeling, both as sensation and emotion, and in our thinking, hungering, thirsting, and so on.
Ultimately all these stem from the one and only Source, The One, from which derives the One Spirit-Substance and the One Law. All this is summed up in the expression "Unity manifests in diversity." The law marvelously maintains a balance between all these diverse elements. The total economy of nature, universally, rests upon the unfailing application of law.
When it is pointed out to us, we can perhaps accept this as axiomatic. What is perhaps not as obviously acceptable is the fact of the great variety of powers, forces, and energies behind the scenes of nature: These are the special field of the Esoteric Science or Occultism. These,. too, all derive from the One Source. They get their particular characteristics from aspects of or inherent qualities within the basic "substance" which gives them being. Their manifest aspects depend on the nature of the substances, organ- isms, or forms through which as powers or forces they work.
For example, to cite electricity again, it seems now that it is acknowledged as the ultimate energy component of matter. Parcels of this energy in the form of electrons, protons, neutrons etc., are, at our physical level of being, the ultimate constituents of matter. But Esoteric Science says this primeval energy, in different forms or modes, operates through all the energy scales, or spectra, of nature at all her levels of being, both inner and outer .
Esoteric Science says further that all this activity pertains to life. Everything is of this life; The universe and everything in it, in a sense, lives. In a sense also everything in its degree is intelligent. The very organs of our bodies know their business. It is the inherent capacity of nature at all levels to conduct her business, in detail and over infinitudes of time, coherently; that is the Law in operation, magnificently, unerringly, universally, and eternally.
A passage from The Secret Doctrine brings this point home to us.
The brain, or thinking machinery, is not only in the head, but, as every physiologist who is not quite a materialist will tell you, every organ in man, heart, liver , lungs, etc., down to every nerve and muscle, has, so to speak, its own distinct brain or thinking apparatus. As our brain has naught to do in the guidance of the collective and individual work of every organ in us, what is that which guides each so unerringly in its incessant functions; that makes these struggle, and that too with disease, throws it off and acts, each of them, even to the smallest, not in a clockwork manner, as alleged by some materialists (for, at the slightest disturbance or breakage, the clock stops), but as an entity endowed with instinct? To say it is Nature is to say nothing, if it is not the enunciation of a fallacy; for Nature after all is but a name for these very same functions, the sum of the qualities and attributes, physical, mental, etc., in the universe and man, the total of agencies and forces guided by intelligent laws. (S.D., III, p. S 11 fn).
Even if we can accept the feasibility of the working of Universal Law in the ways instanced above and in many others, it will be difficult for many, if initially not most, students to see or sense how the law not only works, but, as it is said, works unerringly.
The clue to understanding this is in the last lines of the above quotation, "the total of agencies." If all is Life, and life, like Unity, manifests in diversity, this means it manifests through countless lives or entities. We have also seen that everything in nature, in a sense and to a degree, is "intelligent." This must apply to the inner as well as the outer realms; and it is said that, in fact, this is the case and that behind the scenes there are teeming millions of lives, each fulfilling its part in the scheme of things. These are the "agencies', sometimes known as "elementals," referred to and about which we have much to say later on.
Universal law, therefore, in all its aspects, operates intelligently throughout Cosmos by reason of hierarchies of innumerable intelligent and quasi-intelligent beings, if we may think of them as such. Often they are mere centres of life, formless, quite irresponsible in themselves, at a very lowly stage of development, way down the scale of being. The law, in its full majesty, is the domain not only of the very lowly but also the very lofty who, having passed through so many of its realms of unconscious compulsion, have come to cooperate with it consciously.
The foregoing may have seemed somewhat technical and even difficult to follow and its relevance to our main theme not immediately obvious. The law operates throughout Cosmos, from the highest to the lowest level. This means it applies at psychic and spiritual levels. We cannot even guess at its operations in the spiritual worlds because these are of a different order altogether from what we know.
Some of its operations at psychic levels, however, are not too difficult for us to observe. For example, a man's motive for action is in the subjective realms of Kama. These realms have a powerful effect on the physical man. He may act in the light of all kinds of urges from within himself, from a semiconscious or even an unconscious animal instinct on through the range of human de- sires and feelings, to those for which he had adequate logical reasons and on to those of his highest spiritual prompting's, from conscience, as we say.
There is an aspect of the law of which we might well take notice. Its compensatory effects, both good and evil as we regard them, are always worked out on the same level as the generating causes. This means that physical acts have physical consequences; psychic acts, psychic consequences; mental acts, mental consequences.
As said earlier, we cannot tell what the consequences of a given act will be but the following quotation is relevant at this stage:
Karma is the ultimate law of the universe, the source, origin and fount of all other laws which exist through- out Nature. Karma is the unerring law which adjusts effect to cause, on the physical, mental and spiritual planes of being. As no cause remains without its due effect from greatest to least, from a cosmic disturbance down to the movement of your hand, and as like produces like, Karma is that unseen and unknown law which adjusts wisely, intelligently and equitably each effect to its cause, tracing the latter back to its producer. Though itself unknowable, its action is perceivable. (Key, 135/6)
We ought perhaps to consider the nature of mental and psychic effects. We can imagine what constitutes causes at these levels. Impure imaginings, wrong thinking, imputing wrong motives, re- vengefulness, spitefulness, resentment, general unkindness, all condition our mental and psychic atmosphere, and that in itself more or less affects everyone to the degree of his susceptibility to the particular mental or psychic stimuli we propagate. We are like radio transmitters sending out harmonious or inharmonious signals, and the originator reactively affects himself.
Thoughts projected strongly enough, with feeling, must impinge on the mental body of him at whom they are directed. Whether or not they affect him depends on his responsiveness. If there is nothing in his mental make-up of a like nature, he would not be receptive. It is said that in these circumstances the thought reacts back directly to the sender. We can sense the effects of generous kindly feeling. It is positive and creative whereas ill feeling of any sort is negative and destructive.
When we come to consider the part played by elementals in the psychic and mental realms, we shall see how our thoughts and feelings are enlivened and thus have power in themselves. They certainly affect the quality of our psychic and mental principles, and these in their turn affect our actions in the physical world, with their attendant inevitable results.
What we put into our psychic and mental natures conditions not only our inner principles but our after-death states. Other things being equal the duration of our stay in Kama-loka and Devachan is determined by our habitual thinking and feelings.
The psychic nature we create and evince during life becomes our Kama-rupa after death.
This, as we shall see, becomes a denizen of Kama-Ioka in its own right for a time, until its dissolution. Its nature will determine its intercourse with mediums, or even be a deciding factor in whether it will have such intercourse at all. As we have seen, like attracts like in these realms. The good and pure "shell" will be attracted to the good and pure medium and vice versa.
Only a little thought will show us what a fateful factor this law is in our lives. Only a little realization of its inevitable, inexorable reaction to our every action, in its own good time, would surely give us pause to weigh carefully our thoughts, feelings, and actions and exercise restraint. We must also realize that there is nothing arbitrary about the dispensations of this great law of perfect justice. Obviously there can be no such thing as forgiveness as such. The consequences of our acts are inherent in the acts them- selves. We can only modify or even annul them by timely acts on the credit side.
One further point worth noting about the operation of the law as it applies to our true spiritual growth and development: it is only during physical life on this earth that man is a complete being with all his principles present and operating, or potentially so. The physical body is the agent for all the other principles, from Spirit downward. In terms of growth or the working out of all our potential faculties, this world is where we learn our lessons. This is where we make our efforts, develop our strengths, overcome our weaknesses. This is the world of causes; the other, inner worlds after death are those of effects. Our salvation, our redemption, must be sought and wrought here on earth. It cannot be done in "heaven" or any other place. We have seen that until we are initiates the "heaven" or devachanic world is a purely subjective one. We can be no more effective there than we can in our dreams.
What a different place our world might be if the true nature of this univera1 law were known and its implications more widely appreciated! A realization of the proper processes of reincarnation as an aspect of the cyclic law, and the operation of the law of cause and effect would completely alter man's sense of responsibility for his own state. He could not blame Deity for it, nor seek salvation anywhere but from himself.
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