H.P.B. on Karma
Excerpts from The Secret Doctrine, Volume I, pp. 634-639
The ONE LIFE is closely related to the one law which governs the World of Being—KARMA. Exoterically, this is simply and literally “action,” or rather an “effect-producing cause.” Esoterically it is quite a different thing in its far-fetching moral effects. It is the unerring LAW OF RETRIBUTION. To say to those ignorant of the real significance, characteristics and awful importance of this eternal immutable law, that no theological definition of a personal deity can give an idea of this impersonal, yet ever present and active Principle, is to speak in vain. Nor can it be called Providence. For Providence, with the Theists (the Christian Protestants, at any rate), rejoices in a personal male gender, while with the Roman Catholics it is a female potency, “Divine Providence tempers His blessings to secure their better effects,” Wogan tells us. Indeed “He” tempers them, which Karma—a sexless principle—does not.
Throughout the first two Parts, it was shown that, at the first flutter of renascent life, Svabhavat, “the mutable radiance of the Immutable Darkness unconscious in Eternity,” passes, at every new rebirth of Kosmos, from an inactive state into one of intense activity; that it differentiates, and then begins its work through that differentiation. This work is KARMA.
The Cycles are also subservient to the effects produced by this activity. “The one Cosmic atom becomes seven atoms on the plane of matter, and each is transformed into a centre of energy; that same atom becomes seven rays on the plane of spirit, and the seven creative forces of nature, radiating from the root-essence . . . . follow, one the right, the other the left path, separate till the end of the Kalpa, and yet are in close embrace. What unites them? KARMA.” . . .
To make the working of Karma, in the periodical renovations of the Universe, more evident and intelligible to the student when he arrives at the origin and evolution of man, he has now to examine with us the esoteric bearing of the Karmic Cycles upon Universal Ethics. The question is, do those mysterious divisions of time, called Yugas and Kalpas by the Hindus, and so very graphically—Kuklos—“cycle,” ring or circle, by the Greeks, have any bearing upon, or any direct connection with, human life? Even exoteric philosophy explains that these perpetual circles of time are ever returning on themselves, periodically, and intelligently in Space and Eternity. There are “Cycles of matter” and there are “Cycles of Spiritual evolution.” Racial, national, and individual cycles. May not esoteric speculation allow us a still deeper insight into the workings of these? . . .
According to the teachings, Maya, or the illusive appearance of the marshalling of events and actions on this earth, changes, varying with nations and places. But the chief features of one’s life are always in accordance with the “Constellation” one is born under, or, we should say, with the characteristics of its animating principle or the deity that presides over it, whether we call it a Dhyan Chohan, as in Asia, or an Archangel, as with the Greek and Latin churches. In ancient Symbolism it was always the SUN (though the Spiritual, not the visible, Sun was meant), that was supposed to send forth the chief Saviours and Avatars. Hence the connecting link between the Buddhas, the Avatars, and so many other incarnations of the highest SEVEN. The closer the approach to one’s Prototype, “in Heaven,” the better for the mortal whose personality was chosen, by his own personal deity (the seventh principle), as its terrestrial abode. For, with every effort of will toward purification and unity with that “Self-god,” one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-SUN. Thus, “the events of humanity do run coordinately with the number forms,” since the single units of that humanity proceed one and all from the same source — the central and its shadow, the visible SUN. For the equinoxes and solstices, the periods and various phases of the Solar course, astronomically and numerically expressed, are only the concrete symbols of the eternally living verity, though they do seem abstract ideas to uninitiated mortals. And this explains the extraordinary numerical coincidences with geometrical relations, as shown by several authors.
Yes; “our destiny is written in the stars!” Only, the closer the union between the mortal reflection MAN and his celestial PROTOTYPE, the less dangerous the external conditions and subsequent reincarnations—which neither Buddhas nor Christs can escape. This is not superstition, least of all is it Fatalism. The latter implies a blind course of some still blinder power, and man is a free agent during his stay on earth. He cannot escape his ruling Destiny, but he has the choice of two paths that lead him in that direction, and he can reach the goal of misery—if such is decreed to him, either in the snowy white robes of the Martyr, or in the soiled garments of a volunteer in the iniquitous course; for, there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our will upon our actions, and it is in our power to follow either of the two. Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail; and from the very beginning of the invisible affray the stern and implacable law of compensation steps in and takes its course, faithfully following the fluctuations. When the last strand is woven, and man is seemingly enwrapped in the net-work of his own doing, then he finds himself completely under the empire of this self-made destiny. It then either fixes him like the inert shell against the immovable rock, or carries him away like a feather in a whirlwind raised by his own actions, and this is—KARMA.