In the current New York Times Book Review Karen Armstrong, in an essay on Marilynne Robinson’s “The Givenness Of Things” has this to say, – “Every night on the news we see traumatized migrants from the Middle East and Africa literally dying to get into Europe. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans invaded and exploited these regions for their own benefit; now, in a karmic reversal, their peoples are invading us.” Later, in another essay, on Anthony Beevor’s “Ardennes 1944”, Eliot Cohen remarks of Joachim Pieper, an S.S. commander of tank division, while being a “brilliant tactician, an inspiring leader and a terrifyingly competent officer” was also in charge of the “Malmedy massacre of American soldiers, that slew civilians and prisoners, women and men alike with a callousness that stunned regular German soldiers”, and that his story “reminds us that human beings can fight bravely, brilliantly and audaciously in the worst of causes” and that the “victory that went to the better side was not guaranteed by some law of history.” Finally he observes that “Pieper said he expected to meet his comrades in Valhalla. If there is justice after this life, he ended up elsewhere.”
In these quotes we can see not only the spread of Eastern (Buddhist/Hindu) thought but the continuance of that conventional incarnational judgementalism based on national pride and traditional religious assumptions. All my personal explorations and research into the worlds of spirit, both in this life and others, strongly suggest otherwise. Karma certainly reaches out beyond its myth and into our lives, but it’s actions are infinitely more subtle than any crime and punishment scenario doled out by those with limited understanding. And the rewards of the wicked are determined not by their victims but the conscience of the perpetrator, and I can assure you the conscience of the proud warrior is not quite what the assessment of the pious victims would prefer. Such is the length and complexity of our earthly millenias, every submissive victim has been conquerors in their turn, and every tribe and nation oppressors and oppressed. At this late stage, no-one is innocent of any charges. In a kill-or-be-killed situation, ruthless and cruel lose all their calibration, and meting out justice to the evildoers becomes an option generally available only to the victors.
All of us on the inner journey, whether we’re just beginning to dip our toes into yoga and meditation or are in our twentieth year of focused study and practice, consider karma as something to be reckoned with. We understand that cause and effect is not only as linear as one footstep following another but multidimensional, as in centuries interacting, with some version of the role reversal scenario being allowed to manifest, as our pre-birth planning sessions seem to indicate.
Difficult and painful life situations, while being endured and sometimes transmuted, are usually seen as karmic results of prior actions, actions taken heedlessly, selfishly and often ruthlessly. We have come to understand that our grasping ungenerous actions as young souls, where the fearful and desirous ego would stop at nothing to fulfill its cherished aims, have to be balanced. Those whom we trespassed against, in any number of ways, need to be given their due, whether they choose to take the reins or let another do so.
We need to feel the full measure of our aggressive actions reapplied to us, so that both sides of the coin can be fully felt by those, like us, who would be spenders as well as savers. The process, as it unwinds throughout the many centuries of our incarnations, weaves an immeasurably complex pattern of interactions, as individuals juggle priorities, families struggle to ensure continuity and nations compete to cunningly outmaneuver.
As I “progress” through my own patterns to that still point of knowing completion, I am coming to see karma as a completely neutral force that has nothing to do with good and evil, insult and redress or crime and punishment. It’s more about experiencing it all, – all possible roles and behaviours in the human evolutionary journey. The winners and losers, the employers and employed, the controllers and controlled, the brave and the timid, the dutiful and the iconoclast, the rulers and rebels. On and on it goes, souls swapping positions and trying on characters for size.
Some of those characters fit better than others but we learn to adapt to the various discomforts that come with the territory. Those pants are too tight, this throne is too hard, those taxes too high, that priest too pushy, those villagers too dumb. We often find our comfort zone mere months before transition, and the whole enterprise looks close to pointless in retrospect. Struggling for happiness, fulfillment, serenity, whether by building walls of things surrounded by moats of other things or by abandoning all accumulations in favour of empty mind and belly somewhere in the bosom of nature, leads us to much the same place: all our efforts are for nothing but the solace of temporary relief, for the long term always leads to the life of spirit on the other side of death, where any of the desired ‘all’ is so easily available our previous investment in the vain strivings for their attainment here seems, well, laughable.
We may think we are being punished, we may feel we deserve our fate, we may imagine the education in the school of hard knocks is doing us good, reforming the faulted character into a better, sleeker model, or we may believe our charmed existence the reward of earlier selfless efforts and general altruism, but I sense that is all projection of conventional moral thinking onto the chaotic multidimensional complexity of the energetic interchanges, careening across time and space as we move towards the completion implied by ascension, into those light bodies that are free from the anchors which once caged the long promised freedoms of graduation from what some have called the Earth Life System.
All actions have consequences, however subtle or trivial, so everything we do or think has many reverberations that we have to live with one way or another. We may categorize those reverberations any way we choose, – good luck, bad karma, god’s grace, “shit happens”, – but ultimately all we have to do is cope, adjust, and move on.