A Study in Karma


Annie Besant


Published in 1917


Annie Besant

1847 - 1933



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National Karma



Let us think on the collective karma of a nation. Face to face with this, the individual is comparatively helpless, for nothing he can do can free him from this, and he must trim his sails to it as best he may. Even a Master can but slightly modify national karma, or change the national atmosphere.


The rise and fall of nations are brought about by collective karma. Acts of national righteousness or of national criminality, led up to by noble or base thinking, largely directed by national ideals, bring about national ascent or national descent. The actions of the Spanish Inquisition, the driving of the

Jews and of the Moors out of Spain, the atrocious cruelties accompanying the conquests of Mexico and Peru – all these were national crimes, which dragged Spain down from its splendid position of power, and reduced it to comparative powerlessness.


Seismic changes – earthquakes, volcanoes, floods – or national catastrophes like famine and plague, all are cases of collective karma, brought about by great streams of thoughts and actions of a collective rather than an individual character.


As with a family, so with a nation to a much greater degree, will there be an atmosphere created by the nation’s past; and national traditions, customs, viewpoints, will exercise a vast influence on the minds of all who dwell within the nation. Few individuals can free themselves wholly from these influences,

and consider a question affecting the nation without any bias, or see it from a standpoint other than that of their own people.


Hence largely arise international quarrels and suspicions, mistaken views, and distorted opinions of the motives of another nation. Many a war has broken out in consequence of the

differences in the thought-atmospheres surrounding the prospective combatants, and these difficulties are multiplied when the nations spring from different racial stocks, as, say, the Italians and the Turks. All the knower of karma can do, in these cases, is to realise the fact that his opinions and views are

largely the product of the larger individuality of his nation, and to check this bias as much as he can, giving full weight to the views obtained from the standpoint of the antagonistic nation.


When a man finds himself in the grip of a national karma which he cannot resist – say that he is a member of a conquered nation – he should calmly study the causes which have led to the national subjugation, and should set to work to remedy them, endeavouring to influence public opinion along lines which will

eradicate these causes.





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