A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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The Eternal Now



This universal Law of Causation binds together into one all that happens within a manifestation, for it is universal interrelation. Interrelation between all that exists – that is karma. It is therefore coexistent, simultaneous, with the coming into existence of any special universe. Therefore karma is eternal as the

Universal Self. The interrelation of everything always is. It never begins; it never ceases to be. "The unreal has no being; the real never ceases to be."


Nothing exists isolated, alone, out of relation, and karma is the interrelation of all that exists. It is manifest during the manifestation of a universe, as regards that universe; it becomes latent in its dissolution.


In the All everything IS always; all that has been, all that now is manifest, all that will be, all that can be, all possibilities as well as all actualities, are ever in being in the All. That which is outwards, the forth-going, existence, the unfolded, is the manifested universe. That which IS as really, although inwards, the infolded, is the unmanifested universe. But the Within,

the Unmanifested, is as real as the Without, the Manifested. The interrelation between beings, in or out of manifestation, is the eternal karma.


As Being never ceases, so karma never ceases, but always is. When part of that which is simultaneous in the All becomes manifested as a universe, the eternal interrelation becomes successive, and is seen as cause and effect. In the one Being, the All, everything is linked to everything else, everything is related

to everything else, and in the phenomenal, the manifested universe, these links and relations are drawn out into successive happenings, causally connected in the order of their succession in time, i.e., in appearance.


Some students shrink from a metaphysical view such as this, but unless this idea of eternal Being, within which all beings ever are, is grasped, the centre cannot be reached. So long as we think from the circumference, there is always a question behind every answer, endless beginnings and endings with a "Why?" behind each beginning. If the student would escape this, he must patiently seek the centre, and let the concept of All sink into his mind, until it becomes an ever-present part of his mental equipment, and then the universes on the circumference become intelligible, and the universal interrelation between all

things, seen from the simultaneity of the centre, naturally becomes cause and effect in the successions on the circumference.


It has been said that the Eternal (The Hindu name is Brahman, or more strictly, Nirguna Brahman, the Brahman without attributes) is an ocean, which throws up universes as waves. The

ocean symbolises being without form, ever the same. The wave, by virtue of being a part, has form and attributes. The waves rise and fall; they break into foam, and the spray of the waves is as worlds in a universe.


Or we may think of a huge waterfall, like Niagara, where the mass of its torrent is one ere it falls, and then it divides into innumerable drops, which separately reflect the light; and the drops are as worlds, and the rainbow they make is the many-coloured life. But the water is one while the drops are many,

and life is one though beings are many. God manifest or unmanifest is one and the same, though different, though showing attributes in manifestation, and attributes in un-manifestation; the LOGOS and His universe are one, though He is the unity and the universe the diversity, He is the life and the universe the forms.


Out of manifestation karma is latent, for the beings of the manifested are but concepts in the unmanifested; in manifestation karma is active, for all the parts of a world, of a system, of a universe, are inter-related. Science declares that no movement of a part can take place without affecting the whole,

and scientifically all are agreed. The inter-relations are universal, and none can be broken, for the breaking of one would break the unity of the whole. The inviolability of natural law rests on its universality, and a breach of law in any part would mean universal chaos.




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