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'Theosophy - What's it all about?' - Chapter 6, The Law
by Geoffrey Farthing
'A brief summary of a wonderfully exciting and vitally important subject.'
Everyone who reads theosophical or indeed Eastern religious literature must inevitably come across the word, Karma, often referred to as the Law of Karma. It is commonly defined as the law of action and reaction, and one of its expressions is the natural tendency of any manifestation of forces to come to and remain in a state of equilibrium. During manifestation this is never quite achieved or an inert static condition would result. The Law is an ordering, balancing tendency, in and between things and events. The Law makes existence possible. Without it chaos would reign. Atoms would burst their bounds. Heavenly bodies would fly off their courses. There would be no certainty in scientific knowledge. There could be no predictable behaviour for anything. The Law is that every effect is the result of some cause. This may appear axiomatic and obvious, but if it is fully appreciated and accepted, any idea, for instance, of the possibility of creation in the sense of something being produced from nothing, is immediately untenable. There must have been something to react to the act of creation and of course even the Creator must have had antecedent origins.
It is true, from the point of view of our ordinary minds, that the chain of causation must eventually terminate in mystery. In the ordinary way of religious teaching the ultimate mystery is very close. If anything occurs of real importance in our lives that we do not understand and for which we can see no reason, we can only attribute it to the will and act of God. We can account for almost anything, even the presence of the universe and the world in this way. Theosophy, however, removes that final mystery a very, very long way away and fills the space previously occupied by it with something comprehensible but so great
and magnificent as to require the utmost from our mental capabilities to embrace it in its completeness.
In Chapter II we mentioned two aspects of the Law. One was the rhythmic, cyclical nature of all existence and activities. The other was its causative aspect. We have given some emphasis to the idea of spirit as an equal partner to matter in the scheme of things, and every bit as important. It is as it were, the positive pole of the battery of existence, with matter as the negative pole. So far as we are concerned spirit is closely associated with our consciousness. Let us see if we can use our own consciousness to come to some understanding directly of some of the things we have been saying.
The Secret Doctrine says it is not possible to conceive of any existence without space. It says that all-potentiality is always and everywhere present in Space. It also says that the essential character of Space is that of a primeval, homogenous, undifferentiated, abstract root 'Substance' in which fundamental atoms (not physical atoms) of life-matter arise during periods of manifestation as vortices of energy.
Let us give our minds something a bit more concrete to work on. Earlier we used the imagery of a cone to illustrate the levels of being and the hierarchies of intelligences in descending order of greatness from the One Life. Now let us imagine, in a similar way, that manifested being is a great sphere. The surface of the sphere we could liken to the plane of physical existence, the realm of innumerable multitudes of infinitely diverse forms. One remove back from the surface, towards the centre, consciousness would be aware of the ethereal, astral patterns of forms created at the mental level, many fewer than the forms themselves. Another remove inwards, nearer to the centre, the higher mental planes would bring us to the realm of creative ideas, of general type designs, and farther in still, to the archetypes rayed out from the source of all Ideation at the very centre. In this move into the centre, consciousness would be becoming more concentrated, less concerned with detailed forms and appearances and more with a feeling of the qualities of the life being expressed in them. At the same time it would be becoming more comprehensive, more
embracing in its scope of response until, at the very centre, it would comprehend all.
Now let us have another look at Space and stretch our imagination again to get the idea of the sphere's surface being infinitely remote from the centre, and then get the idea of that centre, or an infinite number of centres, being everywhere in space with their respective surfaces nowhere. If we can do this, we can then sense that there is no such thing as empty space, as that term ordinarily implies. Everywhere present is the One Life which indwells in every 'atom' on all planes of being, arid is indeed the life in all natural things and beings. Always and everywhere present in it is the potentiality of all conditions, shapes, qualities, powers and so on.
Now for another exercise. Close the eyes and get the feeling of you as a point of being. Then, while still trying to keep this feeling of concentrated 'you-ness', clear, if you can, your field of mental vision. You, or that point of consciousness which is really you, will now seem to be the centre of a sphere. Still keeping your physical eyes closed, look from that centre out into your field or sphere of consciousness and see if you can find its farthest limits. Does it have any? Where is what seems to be your centre of consciousness; does it have a location? Where in fact is that total 'you-ness', that concentrated essential you? It is where in fact you are now, in your own 'mental' space which in Theosophy is called subjective Space and which is regarded as substantial, i.e., it is not nothing.
This exercise may give some feasibility mentioned in The Secret Doctrine of a Point of All Potentiality with no location in space, but which is everywhere. It may also give a new concept of Space. When you survey your sphere or field of consciousness with its seemingly endless extension, does it not appear, as in fact, vast space? But is it? Is it not all within, that is completely contained in, that point of consciousness which now seems to be you and for which you can find no dimension?
We have spent some time on this idea of the Universal Point of All Potentiality because it is important in understanding something of initial causation. Do yet another
exercise. Close the eyes and then make an orange or a banana in the mind's eye. Now notice that whereas, before, your mental field was a blank, if indeed you could make it so, now it contains something. Something you can see. This something must be something. It cannot be nothing or your internal vision would not register it. This thing occupies 'space', your mental Space. You can make it as big or as small as you like. With practice you can make it exist for as long as you decide it shall. Where did it come from? Did it not come from you? Was it not some energy manifestation that appeared because you willed it to?
In this way, is it not possible to conceive that the Space aspect of the One Unmanifest could itself be a Causeless Cause? Because of the exceedingly limited scale of our operation this may not be a very convincing experiment nor the conclusion wholly valid, but it does serve to illustrate something that otherwise, in words only, would have been difficult to convey and would possibly have had little or no meaning. Our look at this subjective kind of Space and the idea of Cause being self-existent and conterminous with and within it, may give us a glimpse of something like the initiating process behind and yet contained in the life of a Universe or any part of it.
Life and living are inseparable. Living is action. Karma is the vast endlessly flowing river of the rhythmic action of life, with all its ramifications. This general action includes all the kinds of motion and movement we have mentioned before.
History is an example of a great stream of action in human affairs. Geology indicates a stream of action in aeons of time in the mineral kingdom. Evolution is a stream of action in the other kingdoms. It is the process whereby the potentialities of spirit become unfolded, given expression in the entities that comprise all the levels of being. Within and between the streams there is interaction. Behind the whole process there is Power, and regulating it there is Law. The Law can however never be codified. It has its root in intelligence. We have seen that intelligence is one of the spiritual qualities potentially available to and partially developed in man. This intelligence derives from a Cosmic
counterpart, as individual consciousness does from Cosmic Consciousness.
Intelligence in this sense is inherent in everything. Every unit of life, every organism and every organ of a complex organism is imbued with this Intelligence. It is the regulating factor in everything. The operation of this Intelligence, in the immeasurable vastness of being throughout inconceivably long periods of time and in the tiniest microscopic occurrence lasting only milliseconds, is the Law.
The Law works on the cosmic level and on the level of our little lives. We are causative agents on all the levels of being on which we can operate. We are creators by our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds, and our inner life and activity reflect into our outer existences. We originate actions that give rise to effects. By the Law, in its equilibrium restoring aspect, those effects reflect back to their source, that is to us as their cause. At any given time, however, we, as manifested beings, are also effects. By the Law we are effects of our own causes. By this law then, we are essentially responsible for what we are. Is this not the real and deep meaning of "As a man sows, so shall he reap"? On the face of it, and in the light of much of our immediate experience this will probably be difficult to accept, but it must be remembered that time must enter our consideration. Effects may be delayed. In terms of our time sometimes they may be delayed for an immensely long time. But is the Law not perfectly just? Consequence is inherent in every act. The next chapter explains how the consequence may come "after many days" and even be carried forward from life to life. Some have seen this law of Karma as the instrument of inexorable and fixed destiny but surely this view disallows the flexibility necessary to the love aspect inherent in perfect justice, which must take account of strengths and weaknesses, opportunity, motive, degree of maturity and so on. If to our way of thinking the Law is not merciful, it is not cruel. It is constructive, not destructive. It is educative, not punitive. Equilibrium can be restored in an infinity of ways. A voluntary sacrifice, a moment of compassion, may prevent a period of apparently
inevitable suffering. Karma equally rewards us with good health, good friends, pleasant circumstances, physical beauty and in many other ways. Loving service may earn a rich and fearless nature.
If we really knew this Law, how different would our lives be! It is from ignorance of it that we suffer. Have we not wanted to remain children and to believe wishfully that we could be forgiven the consequences of our acts? There can be no forgiveness in the ordinary sense of the word. Equally though at the spiritual levels of being, there is no one to offend or be offended. There is none then to be appeased or propitiated. We make our peace with our essential Selves. Our inner and real Self is our guardian or our avenging angel, our only Divinity. It is to that we must be true.
Full maturity demands that we accept full responsibility for ourselves and for our circumstances. They too reflect back to us what we are and what we have done. This may be very hard to accept. We can see however that another man, say of more ability and determination, in our place, would soon alter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. He would react quite differently, have different considerations and a different sense of values. He would make different decisions and do different things. We can now see the meaning of the saying "character is destiny".
The Law in one thing is merciful. It grants us as many opportunities and as long as we require to square all our accounts. Life provides us with the necessary experience for learning and growing. Theosophy teaches that all our Karmic accounts must be balanced and all our deficiencies and weaknesses worked out before we can become fully liberated beings.
Now we know something of the Law. Do we also know how to live according to it? We do if we want to. All the great world teachers have told us how. One of the greatest teachers said:, "Love the Lord thy God" and "thy neighbour as thyself'. This in stark simplicity is all the Law requires of us. We have only to obey. But we do have to know in our hearts who or what God and our neighbour is. This is something we have to discover for ourselves and
we have to know what love is, but there may be some hints to help us to these discoveries, in places in this book.
Theosophy - what's it all about? > Next Page Chapter 7 Reincarnation or the Continuity of Life