THE doctrine of Karma is really an occult application of the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, and means Spiritual Heredity. In one form or another it has always constituted an element in transcendental Theosophy, being – while specially developed in the Buddhist system – present in all others, Hebrew, Greek, and Christian. It is a corollary of the doctrine of physical re-births. That which is re-embodied in virtue of the operation of Karma is the true selfhood, or “character.” But so long as re-births continue, this selfhood is not free of matter; but carries with it from birth to birth a clinging remnant of its phantom investment, called Karma-rupa, and only when it has finally got rid of the impurity thus contracted are the bonds which attract and bind it to the earth-life dissolved, and it is free to seek a loftier sphere. It is in order that this inner, essential being may grow and expand that re-births are necessary. We come back, as Lessing said, again and again so long as earth has lessons to teach us.
All that has been in its nature eternal and noumenal in any incarnation; all that has contributed to build up the true and interior man, is absolute and permanent, and will survive all ephemeral elements in our past personalities. The true Ego of the individual, on attaining Nirvana, resumes in itself all that is lasting and noumenal of its past existences, and perceives them as constituting an uninterrupted whole – a continuous chain of cause and effect – and is known by other souls, similarly redeemed, in all its various characters. For only that which in its nature is divine can endure perpetually.
It is the doctrine of Karma and of continuity of existences which alone explains the inequalities and incongruities of life and vindicates the Divine justice. And, seen from this point of view, life has a far vaster scope than is compatible with the idea of a
single existence, which makes the soul
independent of the discipline of earthly experience, inasmuch as it denies such
experience altogether to the vast number who die in infancy. That the Christian
Scriptures do not explicitly recognise the doctrine is
no argument against its being a Christian doctrine. It was already in the world
in Buddhism; and Christianity, as the complement and crown of Buddhism, had no
need to reiterate it. Besides, the function of Christianity was to recognise a stage in the soul’s elaboration at which Karma
ceases to be operative. For the man who has “put on Christ”
has entered already into Nirvana, “the peace which passeth understanding.” He is saved from the earthly
elements and the necessity of further revolving on the wheel of re-births.
“Hence,” says Trismegistus, “he who knows God has
overcome the power of destiny, and the ruling of the stars.” Few who bear the
Christian name attain to the Christian estate. “For strait is the gate and
narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be
that find it.” Yet this does not mean that the many are lost; but that they must
bear their Karma, and return again and again until they find that only way. To
remain only Buddhist, by being regenerate only in the human will, is not to win
the salvation which is of Christ. The will of man takes the
(143:1) Abstract, by Edward Maitland, of some remarks made by Anna Kingsford at the close of a Lecture on the doctrine of Karma, given by the late C.C. Massey, on the 27th May 1885, to the Hermetic Society, and published in Light, 6th June 1885, p. 275.
(144:1) To a clerical correspondent in Light, who “had stated that the doctrine of the transmigration of souls is one which “may not be repulsive to minds who hold lightly to revelation, but which to believers in a Revealed Word of God is abhorrent,” Edward Maitland replied: “I object to this utterance as at once uncharitable, arrogant, and ignorant. It is uncharitable, because it imputes infidelity to all believers in the doctrine in question, numbers of whom hold firmly to ‘revelation and the Revealed Word of God,’ and yet find the doctrine in no way ‘abhorrent’ to it or them. It is arrogant, because it assumes the infallibility of its utterer’s own interpretation of the Bible. And it is ignorant, because the only key to the interpretation of the Bible – the Kabalah, or transcendental philosophy of the Hebrews – shews clearly that the main theme of the Bible is no other than the Gilgal Neschamoth, or passing through of souls, the process being described in numberless passages under the form of narratives, apparently personal and historical, but really relating to eternal verities, in some of which the doctrine is either so clearly implied or so thinly veiled as to make it wonderful that it should have come to be ignored. But however this may be, the doctrine was clearly not ‘abhorrent’ to Jesus Christ, or He would have returned a very different answer to His disciples when they implied their belief in it by asking of Him, ‘Did this man sin, or his parents, that he was born blind?’ – a belief which, as every Biblical student knows, was prevalent among the Jews excepting, of course, the Sadducees or infidel part of them” (Light, 1884, p. 419). – S.H.H.