THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 11, September, 1933
(Pages 498-501; Size: 12K)
(Number 20 of a 57-part series)



MATERIALISM is the illusion that all forces are physical. All physical forces are measurable as to magnitude and direction -- if we have the proper instruments. From this it follows that a "resolution" of any set of forces can be made; that is to say, its net result determined. It is a principle in use every day throughout technology; all engineering results depend upon the fact that such resultants can be calculated with practical accuracy. If, then, all the forces of the cosmos are physical, it follows as night follows the day, that the utmost motion of every atom in the Universe is predetermined through all eternity.

This is the philosophy of the materialist in a nutshell. But a curiously self-revealing aspect is shown at once in practice. Determinism involves on the one hand, no logical possibility of blame for any deed done, gives no room for rancor, revenge, or recrimination; high-minded men like Einstein, who embrace this philosophy, embrace also that aspect of it. On the other hand, it leaves no room either, for admiration, reverence, respect, hope or aspiration. Moral values disappear utterly in a philosophy which pictures every individual as a helpless compound of forces moved to ends preordained from the beginning. A queerly mystic variation of this cult likewise regards the course as fixed, but considers the observing entity as free from the course taken by his vehicle; capable of free observation and judgment, but incapable of influencing results. Some of the worst moral monsters in history have resulted from this.

But observe the blatant contradiction; in the Communist Party of Russia today is perhaps the largest single body of men holding to an uncompromising determinism. That body also happens to be the body whose policy is most founded on hate, fear, and revenge, imbued with the most intransigent determination to bend the "inexorable" course of events to its own will, most given to heroics and hero-worship!

The reason of course is that no one really believes in determinism, in spite of its apparently remorseless logic; wherever it is held, it is simply a rationalized prop for some emotional bias or other which in itself has nothing to do with reason but much with passion. The absurdity of these paradoxes is patent; it is the delusion that the forces are all physical, whereas the most important ones are not physical at all. Yet even here we face a deep mystery -- in fact the mystery of free-will. Physical or metaphysical, the Universe is a compound of force and substance resting upon the universal Unknowable which is both force and substance. Predestination follows far into resolutions of forces non-physical as well as physical. Of course, "resolutions of forces" depend for their existence upon the thesis that force and substance are separate; as we approach the threshold where both are One, the mystery ceases to have meaning. That which is Force uncurbed by the inertias of substance, is Free-will unbounded; that which is Substance immovable by forces, is Self-Existence supreme. Life is both; and -- "That thou art!"

But in the finite realms of manifestation, the planes of half-existence upon which we normally live both physically and metaphysically, we shall struggle for aeons yet with the problem of understanding. One may understand in shadowy form more than one mechanism of prevision. Resolution of forces is one of them. Anyone able to see with a fair degree of accuracy all the causes which have been set in motion toward a certain end, can predict with an accuracy proportional to the scope of his vision. There is nothing mysterious about this; all of us carry it out through every hour of our lives -- in fact, we could not live without doing it. This faculty transferred to another plane is still the same faculty, plus clairvoyance as to causes. But there are still higher prophetic faculties based upon an understanding of the true nature of time, upon the existence of time-directions in the universe running at other angles than the one we normally know. A driver on a crowded road can see but the machines before and behind him, while an observer in the air can see the entire line. To foresee events we have to leave the road and the machine; something which only Adepts do consciously, but many others do sporadically and unconsciously, in dream or vision. The Adept can see and warn against a coming collision, and so far as he interjects his will, predestination vanishes. The driver is predestined; but that predestination exists only for his particular circumstances and plane of consciousness. Nor can the observer predict for certain, unless he sees the man's mind as well as his body. At any moment the driver may speed up or slacken his pace, may turn off the pavement to rest. The if thus always exists for even the most adept prophet. Accuracy increases with increasing numbers; the average course of a mass of beings is infinitely more calculable than that of a single one. We see this fact constantly in the use of sociological and economic statistics which enable very accurate prophecies of social trends in directions unattainable through trying to evaluate the circumstances of an individual.

For any event to happen at all, there must have been a definite moment when it became inevitable. Physically, the time of choice is past for a suicide at the moment his foot leaves the brow of the cliff. But at some moment before that, he must have fallen from some mental cliff; the forces of despair in his soul must have risen to a power where the possibility of stemming them vanished forever. Days before? Seconds? Months? Years or incarnations? Undoubtedly various cases represent all these conditions. Analyzing the lives of men, one sees again and again cases which followed a seemingly haphazard course; and yet which in retrospect at the end, show a perfectly coherent trend toward an end set from birth -- the working out of forces of past times from a moment of choice long back of birth. Yet just such apparent cases now and then break sharply away from the seeming predestination and force for themselves a new destiny. Who may fathom the infinite mysteries of human Karma?

The discriminating principle in us is free; yet its range of choices is defined by surrounding circumstances and through the organs had by birth, both of which in turn are the results of past action and past choice. The will of man draws upon unfettered Eternity lying at the root of every sentient thing; yet the latitude of the channels through which it flows is also the result of the past. Thus, while man is a compound of all the powers of the Universe, he is also a balance of the most contradictory forces, and particularly is he a paradox of fate and free-will, of freedom of choice and of automatism.

Nor is any man's Karma distinguishable, except in part, as an individual. No man can say where he ends and others begin. For all the material upon which we exercise the power of thought, we are indebted to the human mind at large. The discrimination with which we select food for thought is ours, and is yet conditioned by the influences of parents, teachers, and preceptors. Our minds move in certain grooves deeply graven in childhood by forgotten influences. Some traits in all of us are not our Karma at all in any direct sense; they are things of which we may be unconscious, karma transmitted through us as an instrument, from those who impressed it upon us to those others who suffer from or benefit by it -- and who inevitably ascribe it all to us personally. There is many an unconscious "Typhoid Mary," carrying to others the seeds of infinite disease, and yet not herself suffering therefrom at all; there is many a messenger of noble thought who benefits not by that thought, or even understands it. Some Karma is there, yes; but the karma of the instrument and not directly of the operator. How, then, can anyone judge another, with as little vision as most of us have? How can we separate our fate from that of a million others? How can any of us hope for progress except insofar as the whole of mankind progresses?

Yet none is wholly bound. The man tied hand and foot can still flex his muscles and maintain their function until the Karma of an exhausted cause -- worn out by suffering -- brings him rescue. The man in a prison cell can keep health by pacing his narrow area until expiation is rendered and his stride released to wider fields! We are Infinitude itself; and Infinitude outwears in the end all bars.

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:


The man or woman who is placed by Karma in the midst of small plain duties and sacrifices and loving-kindness, will through these faithfully fulfilled rise to the larger measure of Duty, Sacrifice and Charity to all Humanity -- what better paths toward the enlightenment you are striving after than the daily conquest of Self, the perseverance in spite of want of visible psychic progress, the bearing of ill-fortune with that serene fortitude which turns it to spiritual advantage -- since good and evil are not to be measured by events on the lower or physical plane. --From A Master's Letter.

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