THEOSOPHY, Vol. 23, No. 6, April, 1935
(Pages 260-264; Size: 15K)
(Number 26 of a 57-part series)



(Part 1 of 2)

ON THE seventh of September, 1934, the Grace liner Santa Rita took fire off the coast of Colombia, making port safely. Next day the Morro Castle burned off New York with a horrible loss of life and amid scandalous circumstances. These events exploded a whole train of suspended Karma, as follows:

September 11: Fire in the refrigerating plant of the Santa Barbara, in port at New York.

September 12: Fire in the hold of the Bradburn, just through the Canal on the way to Japan.

September 13: First, fire in the bunkers of the German freighter Cassell. Second, the Norwegian motorship I. K. Ward on fire at Gothenburg, Sweden. Third, destruction by fire of a famous California summer resort, Bartlett Springs.

September 15: First, destruction of the Soviet trade office in a disastrous Berlin fire. Second, fire in a Berkeley apartment, California, which narrowly escaped being a major disaster to the congested University of California neighborhood. Third, Chrysler, the famous automobile magnate, lost by fire his yacht, boathouse, and two motor-boats. Fourth, a small fishing boat on the Pacific Coast exploded under unknown circumstances and with unknown loss of life.

September 16: Yacht Zowie destroyed by fire at Cambridge.

September 19: Santa Rita afire again; fire in engine room of Japanese steamer Taiyo Maru, Shanghai to San Francisco.

September 20: Gerard Klein burned at Manchester, Pennsylvania; Anglo-Austrian damaged by fire at Wallsend.

September 24: Norwegian steamer Grenmar on fire off Holland coast.

September 26: Norwegian motor-ship Estrella arrived in London with fire in her hold.

September 28: Steamer Aberhill on fire at Oran, Algeria.

October 1: Fire in hold of German steamer Goenigstein.

September, as we have shown variously hitherto, is the classic month of marine disasters; in this case they were not confined to fire. On the 10th, a large section of the U.S. Navy was engaged in a frantic hunt for President Roosevelt's son, who afterwards came ashore safely; and on the same day six were drowned in an accident on the Mississippi. On the 21st the yacht Silver Spray was reported a total loss after colliding with the Rio Casma near St. Johns.

Carrying on in October (as usual) the cycle, on the 10th, claimed two lives in the destruction of the tug Valiant at Oakland, California, in a collision, while on the same day two freighters collided off the San Francisco water-front, through a confusion of signals -- both accidents happening in the morning.

March and April of 1933 also furnished a remarkable overlap of fire and air disasters paralleling the above one of fire and sea:

March 25th, a six-year-old child burned to death in a flaming house, her aunt being killed by jumping from a window. Near Oakland, California, on the same day, a falling airplane struck a residence and set fire to it. In the crash and fire fourteen persons were killed and three houses destroyed. On the 28th, the great British Imperial Airways plane, City of Liverpool, burst into flames in the air, killing fifteen persons. On the 31st, six were killed in a plane wreck, and eight badly injured. (Kansas). On the 5th of the following month, one of the greatest of all air disasters, the wreck of the Akron in an electrical storm, with the loss of 73 out of 76 men in the crew. Taking off immediately to look for survivors, the airship J-3 dived into the ocean off the New Jersey shore, killing two of her crew of seven.

August 9th, 1931, provided another cycle of air disaster -- minus the fire this time. On the same day, an American Airways plane fell in Ohio with the loss of six; a plane fell on Donner Summit in California, and in Pennsylvania a boy was killed and two others injured by the fall of a plane.

June 2nd of 1932 added to the cyclic manifestations with the deaths of nine persons in three burning farmhouses, all in the State of Arizona but not -- apparently -- connected in any way.(1)

May 31st of the same year, came to pass another odd explosion of "coincidences". In Los Angeles, a pet rattlesnake, a pet rat, a cat and a dog, all sent their owners to the hospital with bites.

To these we must add a series happening one day in December, 1930. At King City, California, a Mr. Hutchenson was burned to death in trying to save his son. At Vacaville, the same State, a woman lost her life trying to save her daughter from a burning ranch home; and in Portland, Oregon, a man was killed saving two small children from electrocution -- truly a cycle of heroism.

Almost at the opposite extreme comes a cycle of ludicrous human folly -- but with something more than that behind it. On September 7th, 1934, a business man of Modesto, California, snapped the trigger of an "unloaded" shotgun and blew a hole in the roof of his car. A few hours later he repeated the feat with equal success, this time accomplishing an ample orifice in the floor of his dining room. Twenty-four hours earlier, a politician of the same town, cleaning an also "unloaded" shotgun, removed the end of a sofa from which his two daughters had just prudently departed. At almost the same time, and in the same locality, a prominent oil man was struck in the eye by a shotgun pellet while hunting -- victim of some careless unknown.

Also on September 7th, Howard Guilford, a prominent anti-crime editor of Minneapolis, was murdered with a shotgun thrust through the window of his car. Was there connection between the ludicrous cluster of carelessnesses in California, and the intentional beastliness in Minneapolis? Perhaps an important one.

The regulation process of determining and fixing a law in nature, scientifically speaking, is by observing and cataloguing repeated phenomena. The accumulation of information thus acquired has well-nigh done away with the former scientific skepticism regarding the Second Fundamental Proposition of Theosophy -- the universality of the law of periodicity; that is, so far as concerns the so-called "regular" processes of nature. For like reasons, the Theosophical beginner does not find much trouble in accepting that Proposition. When it comes to apparent "accidents," however, both the scientist and the tentative Theosophist are apt to boggle at any suggestion of cyclic law; and the vagaries of modern "astrology" in its ascription of such cycles to stellar influences, intensifies the skepticism of the hard-headed.

Yet a moment's thought should indicate that "accidents" possess their casual or irregular aspect simply because of their unexpectedness; an unexpectedness which exists only as a result of non-perception of the causes moving toward that crisis. Such causes of necessity are the logical outcome of chains of happenings extending backward into eternity, and thus in no way are removed from "nature" all-inclusive, or from the sway of whatever basic laws of causation rule that "nature" in general.

The "unexpectedness" of accidents is due to non-perception of the mechanism of causative continuity which lies back of them; and since a major portion of that mechanism is non-physical, it may be a long time before the real "laws of accident" are generally accepted. Yet if the cycles of accident were as carefully catalogued as are "natural" phenomena, their startling law of periodicity would be irresistibly revealed. Unable to deny the unexplained fact, science would be forced despite itself to seek for causes in new realms. Some day, perhaps, scientists will begin to tabulate accidents, as has been done by some Theosophical observers.

An "accident," in schoolboy terminology, "is when" human beings feel the disastrous impact of forces to which they find themselves in opposition. The classes of "accidents" may thus be listed:

1. "Acts of God." When men, pursuing accustomed occupations, or finding themselves in locations ordinarily safe, are struck by natural forces moving out of their apparently accustomed spheres.

2. Accident by defect, class 1. When injury results from defects in material or equipment which could not have been detected by ordinary care; the "piped" rail which has a weakening inclusion of impurities in its heart, the rope with a hidden defect, the "crystallized" automobile axle.

3. Accident by defect, Class 2. Injury resulting from discoverable defects; careless manufacture or inspection of materials or equipment.

4. Accidents of risk; injuries resulting to stunt aviators, circus performers, soldiers, and the like; accidents resulting from occupations known and accepted as dangerous.

5. Accidents of the human factor, class 1: accidents happening to an individual through careless handling of the forces of nature.

6. Accidents of the human factor, class 2: accidents resulting to one individual from the carelessness of others.

Class 1 accidents often appear haphazard because of our ignorance of a major cycle; i.e., men may be victims of a major natural convulsion which in itself is a regular and natural phenomenon but moving on a cycle so vast that its arc looks like a straight line to a generation of men; such happenings as eruptions, earthquakes, floods, storm cycles. One of the most striking examples of this class was the flood of December, 1933, California, in which over a hundred lives were lost by a flood sweeping down from the foothills over a populated area. A deceptive air of permanence and safety formerly marked the district, due to the closely spaced houses, the paved roads and streets, the trees and shrubs which covered the district, all of which concealed the fact that the whole side-hill had been formed by sand and boulders washed from the mountains in even greater floods of former days. It was not noticed that many houses had been built, and streets laid. in water-courses concealed by growth only a few years old. At the time of the accident, indeed, an engineer's report in the County archives pointed out these facts and predicted a disaster. It had been ignored for political reasons. Hence, we have here a combination of Class 6 with Class 1. As a further complication, the inevitable flood, due with a certain phase of the long-time weather cycle, was greatly enhanced by the recent burning off of the mountainside shrubbery -- another complication of Class 6 nature. In other words, one has here an almost perfect example of the typical natural disaster cycle; a force of nature moving in a long-time accustomed period, ignored because of its long sweep; plus a combination of an act of omission, of irresponsibility and inertia, with an act of definite, careless disregard of nature and the welfare of her living things.

All this produced a focus in which were caught in one sweep a number of individuals who had like disasters embedded in their Skandhas, produced by a multitude of varying individual acts but all coming to a point through a mass opportunity offered by nature, and triggered by a double act of definite carelessness. Given slightly different circumstances, and a similar close affinity between these persons, we would have had some cycle of similar but separated accidents like those listed in the fore part of the present discussion. As for instance, given a little different slant of Karmic connections, the nine Arizona persons might have been destroyed in one house, or caught in a burning theatre, or killed in a burning plane.

(To be Concluded)

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:


To "turn away in horror" is not detachment. Before we can hope to prevent any particular state of mind or events reaching us in this or in another life, we must in fact be detached from these things. Now we are not our bodies or mere minds, but the real part of us in which Karma inheres. Karma brings everything about. It attaches to our real inner selves by attachment and repulsion. That is, if we love vice or anything, it seizes on us by attachment thereto; if we hate anything, it seizes on our inner selves by reason of the strong horror we feel for it. In order to prevent a thing we must understand it; we cannot understand it while we fear or hate it. 

--William Q. Judge

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(Part 27 of a 57-part series)

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(1) Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1932.
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