THEOSOPHY, Vol. 84, No. 11, September, 1996
(Pages 337-341; Size: 11K)

STUDENT REFLECTIONS

[Article number (5) in this Department]

The world has always been a place with many contradictions in it, to the man; when he becomes a disciple he finds life is describable as a series of paradoxes. ... As his consciousness becomes awakened, the contradictions in the man himself become more marked than ever; and so do the paradoxes which he lives through. 

--Light On The Path
ON A BIBLE PARADOX

CONSIDER a seeming paradox of the Bible. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is proclaimed to have stated: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." But, it may reasonably be asked, how can anyone possibly demand "an eye for an eye" while simultaneously "turning the other cheek." Isn't this a paradox?

The answer to the dilemma lies in the probability that the referenced Bible verses are based on equally true but different concepts. In the Old Testament, Exodus is actually based upon the Law of Karma. For instance, one aspect of this fundamental law of the Universe is given by William Q. Judge, in The Ocean of Theosophy (p. 89): "Viewed from another point it is merely effect flowing from cause, action and reaction, EXACT result for every thought and act." Is this not precisely what is depicted in the Old Testament? Note carefully what is being stated: eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. In other words, exact results flowing from precise causes. Judge uses different words but states the same concept. However, students of theosophy should exercise care not to infer too much from this. Unlike the unknown author of Exodus verses (who confidently predicts that a wound will result in a wound and a bruise in a bruise, etc.). William Q. Judge makes no such claim. He does maintain that exact results issue from all causes. However, this is an important point, he does not claim to know what those results will be. This is doubtless because he knew that, although the concept of Karma is not difficult to understand, it manifests in infinitely complex ways. Nevertheless, it should now be easy to see that, taken in context, Exodus 21:24 properly belongs in the Bible.

But what of turning the other cheek? This is an equally valid, but different, concept. Jesus is not talking about how Karma operates, but, rather, how one should deal with it. A very different matter. Thus, in these verses, He instructs us how to work in harmony with the Law rather than reacting in ways that only serve to perpetuate it. Thus, it should be easy to see that, taken in context, the verse in Matthew also properly belongs in the Bible. The concepts are merely different, not conflicting. Therefore, no paradox exists.

A final observation needs to be made about these matters. Given the assertion (by H.P.B., Judge and many others) that Karma is a fundamental law of the Universe, it appears reasonable to conclude that it is not affected by such concepts as prayer, mercy and compassion, etc. One could as easily ascribe such attributes to other natural laws, such as gravity, electricity and magnetism, as to the law of Karma. Like the others just mentioned, Karma simply IS. This does not mean, however, that humanity should react to it either passively or rebelliously. For it is possible to harmonize with this law just as it is with all of the others and thus cause it to be a helpful factor on our evolutionary journey. No law of the Universe has as its purpose the dispensation of rewards or punishments. They do not make judgments, exhibit vengeance or grant mercy. Nor are they alterable. They simply ARE. Thus, whether we consider them to be good or bad, desirable or undesirable, pleasant or painful, is entirely a matter of our own perspective -- and this is alterable. We can also alter how we experience the working of the laws even though we cannot alter the laws themselves one iota.

Consider, for example astronauts on one of our space shuttle flights. They appear, as they float about in the cabin, to have "changed" the law of gravity in that they seem entirely unaffected by it. However, the truth of the matter is (as any astrophysicist will attest) that gravity remains unchanged in space. The astronauts actually are falling constantly toward the earth but the centrifugal force generated by the directional velocity of their spacecraft moves them just as constantly away from it. Consider another example that, perhaps, will better illustrate the manner in which Karma manifests. Someone standing on the bank of a small and tranquil pond tosses a pebble into it. The resulting ripples from this disturbance move out in all directions across the surface of the pond. What can we do about this situation? Petition for dispensation from the law, citing as justification the fact that we will not make this mistake again? Obviously, we can do that. But will that stop the ripples? Just as obviously, not. It can be said of the pond that it doesn't "care" how you feel about what you have done. It acts according to the unalterable law, not your personal desires. In so doing, it does not manifest love, or hatred, or mercy or even compassion for it does not possess any of these attributes.

What about justice, then? Is the pond at least "just" toward us? As always, the answer depends upon our perspective. To the extent that the pond cares naught for our unhappiness or repentance or even the fact that we have "learned the lesson" and will not toss any more pebbles, it could be maintained by some that the pond is "unjust" -- even "merciless." From a different perspective, because the pond is, to use a biblical phrase, "no respecter of persons" it could also be maintained that the pond is totally just. Consider: it will produce, for anyone who tosses the same or an identical pebble with the same amount of force, exactly the same number and magnitude of ripples. Furthermore, it will not respond to the petitions or unhappiness or repentance of anyone else anymore than it will respond to ours. It plays no favorites. It acts but in a totally impartial manner. What could be fairer than that?

But back to our problem, what to do about those ripples racing inexorably toward the opposite bank. We have already discussed the futility of wishing we hadn't tossed the pebble. And we can't retrieve it. The pebble was tossed and natural law (Karma is one) takes it from there. What, then? Shall we say, like the opening line in one of Samuel Beckett's plays, "nothing to be done"? No, because there is something to be done. We can do something that is equally in accordance with universal laws: toss another pebble -- to a point in the pond beyond the furthest ripples of the first pebble. It, too, will create ripples and some of them will race back across the pond toward the onrushing ripples from the first pebble. This will not change the first ripples, of course (ripples are ripples), but it will effectively block the latter from reaching the opposite bank -- which is our desire. In short, we accomplish our objective, not by rebelling against the laws of nature or petitioning for a dispensation, but by harmonizing with them. Karma, as we know, is simply another law and, therefore, the same rules apply. However, because it is a metaphysical rather than a physical law (though it manifests through the latter), it can be experienced and dealt with in far more complex ways. It has been said that thoughts are things. In our pond analogy, then, we could say, that "thoughts are pebbles." That is to say, what we think does directly affect not Karma itself (for, like the ripples, Karma is Karma), but how we experience it. Thus, we need to be constantly aware not only of what we do but, also, what we feel -- for the Law of Karma is ever present to hold us to account for all of our actions. In so doing it exhibits not love or hatred or mercy or vengeance -- but justice, Divine Justice.


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:

"YOUR JOY IS YOUR SORROW UNMASKED"

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you Joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. 


--Kahil Gibran

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