Or is it relative? I admit I am confounded by this idea called karma. It seems so simple I’m embarrassed to admit such a thing. The source of my confusion comes from other ideas we have about how the universe works that seem to conflict with it; quantum theory, relativity, synchronicity, constructal theory, and cognitive theory, all so lofty sounding, all so language intense. And specialized language at that, developed by people so smart they would be hard pressed to change a light bulb.
On first pass, karma sounds fairly inflexible. It was realized by some Eastern religion way back when, then went viral and was eventually co-opted by virtually all Eastern brands, in one form or another. Even Christianity has its spin, found in Galatians 6:7, something about reaping what we sow. All this I would say puts karma clearly in the Cause and Effect column. And that’s the idea, I suppose. But how does karma allow for epiphany, that quantum enlightenment revealing the nebulous goal of it all presumed at the end of the road less traveled?
Let’s suppose for a moment there exists a soul that has endured many, many lifetimes. Let’s make him such a bad actor it’s more like many, many lifetimes have endured him (we’ll use a guy for this as they’re the reason for the term “bad guy” in the first place.) And one day our villain sits down and thinks about his actions and comes to the astonishing realization that the reason for all his misery is him. He finally accepts that he is his own worst enemy and has been for a long time, and all his madness hasn’t brought him much in the way of happiness. But within that insight is the key to unlock his happiness, and it’s called responsibility. And he uses that information; he takes responsibility for his actions and redirects his life. He turns the proverbial new leaf, little birds start chirping around him, chipmunks and deer eat out of his hand, and life is good.
“But, wait!” Karma says, “What do I do with all these delinquency reports? I got a ton of ‘em here, some dating back to King Tut! And here’s a really nasty one from the French and Indian War.” And that’s a good question. Nobody likes being left holding the bag, especially when someone else has filled it.
There are at least two possibilities here as I see it. One is that there is no such thing as a true epiphany, that anyone claiming such is either lying, or has really worked themselves out of the hole but was just too unaware to know it, which is, of course, a contradiction. Or, even though our villain-turned-hero has in fact changed his thinking and his actions, he is still doomed for the next umteen lifetimes to get beat up, live in poverty, live in disease and debilitation, despair and dejection. Or, there’s more to Karma than we know. Wonder what that might be.
First, we need to agree on at least one assumption, and that is that the universe is consistent: As above, so below, as within, so without. But, we might also want to agree that Karma is either the natural consequence of a cold, impersonal balance-seeking universe, or it is micromanaged by some divine being. But, that’s a want, probably unknowable from this vantage point and so what? karma is not going away any time soon and we all must deal with it. Whether we believe in karma or not, does not negate the reality of it.
Up until the mid-1800s, Sir Isaac had a Locke on the minds of science and a big part of philosophy. So much so, they let him sit in a special chair at Cambridge. Pretty nice perk for sleeping under an apple tree. Some say he discovered certain things about the world, but maybe he more defined what was already observed over the past several millenia and put some numbers to it, organized and quantified things a little. In any event, his work came under severe attack when Prof. Einstein rolled out his theory of special relativity in 1905. A theory that deals with gravity, but is generally considered to have kicked off the age of modern physics. Eventually Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli, et al, enter the picture with this thing called quantum theory. On the surface, their ideas seems to obliterate the catchphrase phrase As Above, So Below, but not really. They’re not so much deconstructing what we call the Law of Analogy, or Correspondence, take your pick, they’re just telling us we can’t predict where Above or Below are and when they’ll be there at the same time.
Comes now Carl Jung who eats dinner with Einstein, shrinks Pauli’s head, and in 1935 reluctantly shares his theory of synchronicity. Carl is also a fan of karma, but I admit I have deliberately not read his works on it because I’m too easily influenced by the genius of others and too willing to concede they have preemptive rights to the Holy Grail. As a result, I stop thinking for myself. But, I wanted to know what I think about all this on my own, thank you, so I’ve resisted instead, preferring knowledge directly from the gods.
Near as I can understand, synchronicity tells us that meaning is actually the driving force in the universe, much the same as quantum mechanics tells us we cannot spy on subatomic particles without becoming One with them. That is, the act of observation influences the actions of particles. Two very bizarre and counter-intuitive ideas. Without getting too involved, it is well known that Jung was deeply influenced by the new physics of the day. And it makes sense a progressive man of the times would be, and thankfully so, despite those who still think he was a crank. In the spirit of Christmas, we’ll call them Free Thought Grinches.
If we put all this in a petri dish and swish it around, we come up with something like this: Where the unseen world of free and indestructible energy exists outside of what we perceive to be the physical world, yet involves itself with the actions of the living through what some call coincidence, and where the energy of the human mind is capable of not only interpreting these actions, but of influencing them, it follows that when that same energy of the human mind shifts so as to bring about a dramatic change in human behavior, another use of energy, Karma will adapt itself to the meaning of that change, and respond in kind.
It would be close to impossible to prove, and require enormous faith to believe in any evidence that would claim karma is an exact science, that is, a literal eye for another literal eye without some irrefutable link (cause) between the two. If we humans, and any others in the Universe, have showed up in the physical to, among other things, learn how to be “good,” then it is an equally reasonable assumption to posit that who or whatever put us here has a mind, some sense of ethics and fairness (balance,) and some reason to do so in the first place beyond a really twisted sense of humor. That being the case, it would follow that once we get it, we’ve got it, and this thing we call karma has done its job. If accumulated bad karma cannot be quickly ameliorated in some fashion, but instead must trudge along to completion according to its record despite the good works of our reformed and regenerate used-to-be bad guy, it would seem to cast its inventor not only in an unloving light, but somewhat dim-witted as well, more like the Wizard of OZ than the compassionate Great Mystery.
If I am anywhere near close on this, and I admit I have poorly intellectualized my feelings about it (sorry,) I think the bottom line is karma is just as in line and functional with a quantum universe as it is a Cartesian universe. That is, I choose to believe that right action is fast to correct and covers a lot more history than some implacable theory based on simple arithmetic. Karma is adaptable, as it works on whatever level the individual is, and compassionate through the action of enlightenment, or what some call grace. The challenge, of course, is to admit where we really are in all this.
Be well and enjoy the holidays,
Rick is a mixed-blood Tsalagi (Cherokee), a sundancer, inipi (sweatlodge) leader, and presents workshops and lectures throughtout the country. For information, or to schedule a workshop or lecture please visit http://mixedblood.info or his Expert's Page.