THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 3, January, 1948
(Pages 116-118; Size: 9K)


[Article number (4) in this Q&A Department]

CURRENT newspapers often carry accounts of fatalities among children and young people resulting from what used to be no more than harmless family "spats." One girl was accidentally killed with scissors thrown by her sister in a squabble over clothes. Why should such tragedies occur when people mean no real harm but are simply blowing off steam? It seems a disproportionately heavy Karma for a fit of anger.

We are bound to feel that all Karma is disproportionate if we trace it no further than its apparent cause. One act of thoughtlessness, in itself, would hardly merit such an effect. But, if we consider that act as the final one of a series of similar acts, we may get some idea of the justice of that heavy Karma. There are kinder ways of learning the need for self-control, for weighing the consequences of our action, than the one mentioned in the question; but if they are not availed of, we inevitably draw to ourselves other, less gentle, opportunities.

It is difficult -- if it is even possible -- for us to trace the fine lines of Karma in our individual lives. We need, perhaps, more objectivity than we can as yet muster on the subject of "I." So the larger pattern is more easily discernible -- the cycles of centuries, the Karma of nations, races and humanity as a whole. Humanity, it is said, has completed its descent into matter. For the Aryans -- the whole fifth race -- this is the Kali-Yuga. These two facts indicate that we have reached a kind of maturity. We are accountable for what we do.

We know that parents assume responsibility for the debts, dangers, and disasters brought on by their children. The child is protected from the full retribution for his wrong deeds. Can we not think, analogously, that a race, a nation, and even a whole humanity, has many kinds of protection around it in its infancy and youth? H.P.B. spoke of lands rising from the ocean cleansed of all impurities, ready to receive another race of men. Where do these "impurities" come from? It would seem that the earth, physically, and Nature, collectively, is a kind of vicarious atonement for mankind up to a certain point, just as parents are for their children. Nature perhaps absorbs much of the evil that men do in ignorance -- until her saturation point is reached and mankind's age of responsibility arrives. The body of a child absorbs much, forgives many abuses, and heals many wounds. But the adult pays the full price of abuses both past and present, when all the old scores are brought up to be settled.

We can trace the effects of war -- large-scale deliberate killing -- through to postwar epidemics of crimes committed by victims of violent impulses. These are the "I-don't-know-why-I-did-it" criminals, who are impelled by the psychic atmosphere of violence created by a world at war. It may be possible to trace still another link in this chain by means of the elementals, the lives of nature which are the messengers of man. They have been trained and directed in deliberate acts of violence. Is it strange to think that such training should assert itself and result in those fatal accidents which occur without any human will specifically directing violent acts?

It seems that every reformer, from a Jesus or a Buddha down to a Billy Sunday, always gets people angry with him, and ends up crucified, either literally or figuratively. If his life isn't at stake, his reputation is. Why should this be so?

It is natural for us to puzzle about this, although such things as life and reputation are of secondary import to the reformer himself. His life he does not consider his own, but the world's. His reputation is the work of others; his integrity is his own, and no one else can assail it. But wherever selfishness and mental inertia are present, there the setting is laid for resistance to true ideas, and for persecution of those who tell the truth. (See Key, 37.)

As for Billy Sunday, we can't measure his reformation simply by the number of people who were incensed against him. Evil men are angered by even the unspoken reproach of the good man, true; but do not many "good" men goad their fellows to anger by self-righteous speech? Those who tell much are often suspected of knowing little, and it affronts a man's feeling of independence to be harangued at by would-be reformers. If he does not know what to do about it, he may get angry, for anger is the refuge of impotence. The "reformer" who excites only that feeling must consider his mission a failure, however, because he has aroused Kama without stimulating Manas.

We are, perhaps, prone to consider that we are persecuted by others, when really our suffering is self-imposed by the wrong actions and thoughts we set in motion. This suffering is a kind of personal crucifixion with which we are all familiar. H.P.B. makes clear in the Secret Doctrine (II, 422) the distinction between this involuntary suffering of all mankind and the crucifixion of the great teachers: "The lower passions chain the higher aspirations to the rock of matter, to generate in many a case the vulture of sorrow, pain, and repentance. In every such case one sees once more ... a god, bereft even of that supreme consolation of Prometheus, who suffered in self-sacrifice, as the divine Titan is moved by altruism, but the mortal man by Selfishness and Egoism in every instance." It would appear that it is only the karmaless being who suffers from the faults of others, and that is a suffering voluntarily undertaken out of regard to the end in view -- that all men may be helped to surmount their mortality.

How much of a point should theosophists make about their ideas in their contacts with non-theosophists? Sometimes we make ourselves a lot of trouble by talking Theosophy.

Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves, do we feel obligated to talk about Theosophy? Unless the desire to speak of the ideas is real and spontaneous, our expressions will probably get Theosophy, as well as ourselves, in "trouble" or misunderstanding. As for how much of a point we should make about our ideas, that must depend on the strength of our convictions. It is possible to stand so wholeheartedly in and with Theosophy -- not fanatically, but steadfastly -- that the position commands respect, and leads others to an interest in Theosophy.

For those who feel that to stand apart from the majority is to invite a stigma, Theosophy will not be a desirable study, nor a comfortable way of life. Theosophists are a self-elected minority. Children are born to theosophical parents, but they are not -- cannot be -- born to Theosophy. It isn't something that can be conferred or forced on another, and talking at the wrong time or in the wrong way is a kind of forcing. In certain circumstances a form of silence may be an active promulgation of the philosophy. A sense of fitness suggests the natural expression of Theosophy, don't you think?

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(February 1948)
[Article number (5) in this Q&A Department]

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