The Inner Life, v. II/Eighth Section/V
VARIETIES OF KARMA
The karma of service done is always the opportunity for more service. This is one of the rules which emerge with the greatest certainty from our study of the working of karma in the many past lives which have been examined. When a man leads a particularly good life it by no means follows that in the next one he will be rich or powerful or even comfortable; but it does absolutely follow that he will have wider opportunities for work. Clearly the LOGOS wants His work done, and if we wish for opportunities of progress we must show that we are willing to work.
Knowledge brings responsibility, along with opportunity. To yield to what you know to be wrong, or to go back a step in order to gain force for a greater spring forward, is to miss your opportunity. Lives may pass before you gain the same opportunity again. If you neglect the knowledge or vision which points out to you a fault, you will certainly be born in the next life without that knowledge or vision. Knowledge should always be used; it is a mistake to think that you can postpone your activity and retain the knowledge.
We may make for ourselves most unpleasant future conditions if we choose to behave foolishly, but it is practically impossible for us who are now cultured people to throw ourselves back in a future birth into the position of savages or people of really low class. We may waste our time and make no progress, but unless we actually take to the practice of black magic, and use tremendous power in the wrong direction, we cannot throw ourselves back as far as that. Through misconduct or through neglect of opportunities we may be born in an uncomfortable position in our own class, or even in one a little lower, but it would upset the scheme of things if we could be thrown back into the savage state. Exceptional actions sometimes produce exceptional results, but as a general rule violent ups and downs are not practical; obviously it would be impossible for a cultured man to work out the kind of karma which in his position he must have made, if he were thrown back into the narrow conditions of an ignorant agricultural labourer. For the plans of the LOGOS an ever-increasing number of cultured people are needed, and therefore when once a man is born into a noble position he is on whole likely to continue to be so born.
There are, however, certain kinds of action which bring unusually horrible karma as their results. For example, the karma of cruelty of any kind, whether to men or to animals, is always especially awful in character; it often brings with it chronic physical ailments, accompanied by most acute sufferings, and often also it produces insanity — this last more especially when the cruelty is of a refined and intentional character. We have found, for example, that many members of the ignorant mob who tortured Hypatia in Alexandria have been reborn in Armenia, and have themselves suffered all sorts of cruelties at the hands of the Turks. People who are now, apparently by accident, burnt to death with awful sufferings are often those who have burnt others in the middle ages, or looked on with glee at those ghastly scenes of martyrdom.
Any injury done to a highly developed person reacts terribly upon the doer. We should indeed be careful about our attitude towards any Great One who may come, for He, being far in advance of us, is likely to be misunderstood — to be different from what we have expected, and therefore not to be appreciated. One reason why the Great Ones do not more often come amongst men is that the karma of misjudging and ill-using Them is dreadful, and the fools among mankind are sure to incur it. I have myself seen a case in which a great soul, born where he was not understood, fell when young into the hands of a brutal and incompetent pedagogue who shamefully abused him. I have also been allowed to see the karma which will follow upon that cruelty, and I shudder when I think of it. Truly may it be said of that miserable wretch, in the words attributed to the Christ, that before he had “offended one of these little ones, it had been better for him that a millstone had been hanged about his neck, and he had been drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Closely associated with this is the subject of the karma of ingratitude, which is always exceptionally heavy — most of all when the ingratitude is shown to an occult teacher. People are constantly pressing forward, desiring to come into touch with the Masters, to attract Their attention; and they sometimes think that the pupils of those Masters try to hold them back, or at any rate decline to assist them in their efforts to approach. The pupil of the Masters exists only to help others, and nothing pleases him more than to draw another to the Feet where he has learned so much himself. But when he sees from the type of the aspirant that he does not yet understand those Great Ones, that his attitude towards Them is captious, irreverent, presumptuous, he will take no responsibility in the matter, for he knows that serious disaster is certain to result. A man of such temperament is sure to make bad karma anywhere; it would be foolish to put him into a position where he can multiply it a hundredfold.
For example, I have noticed cases in which people who have been deeply devoted to our President change their minds, and begin to abuse and slander her. That is a wicked thing, and it makes far worse karma than would be the maligning of a person to whom they owed nothing. I do not mean that people have no right to change their minds. If a man finds that he can no longer conscientiously follow our President, he has a full right to withdraw himself from among her disciples; we may regret his blindness, but we have no word of blame for him, for each man must do what he sees to be right. For such a departure there is no evil karma but that of the loss of opportunity — the ordinary result of failing in a test and making a serious mistake. But if after dropping away the man begins venomously to attack her and to circulate scandalous falsehoods against her, as so many have done, he is committing a very grave sin, and the karma of his action is exceedingly heavy. Vindictiveness and lying are always wicked; but when a man directs them against one from whose hands he has received the cup of life, they become a crime the effects of which are appalling.
The fact that a man has a large amount of bad karma behind him makes anything like occult advancement impossible for him until it is worked off. For example, those who are deeply involved in karmic debts are not likely to be candidates for membership in the community of the sixth root-race. No one could become an adept if he had evil karma behind him, because he must be free from any necessity for rebirth. A man who can function freely in his buddhic or rational vehicle, and so drop the causal body, need never again take up the latter; but naturally this cannot be done until all the karma of the lower planes is exhausted. The Master sends out all of HIS forces in open curves; but any lower thought of self causes the force sent out to travel in a closed curve, so that, whether it be good or bad, it has to return to its source and the man must come back to receive it.
A man is not free from the binding results on lower planes until he is perfectly selfless on those planes. A man who when helping another feels perfectly the unity with him, obtains the result of his action on the rational plane only, and not lower down. Do not forget also that we are making karma on the astral plane, for a man can make karma wherever his consciousness is developed, or wherever he can act or choose. I have seen cases where actions done on the astral plane have borne karmic fruit in the next physical life. Another point to remember is that there is always a general karma belonging to an order or a nation, and that each individual in that order or that nation is, to a certain extent, responsible for the action of the whole. For instance, a priest has a certain responsibility for all that the collective priesthood does, even though he may not personally approve of it.